In what seems to be a continuing effort to limit legal immigration, DHS issued a final rule that reinterprets “public charge” as a ground of inadmissibility. The new interpretation is scheduled to take effect October 15, 2019, but has already been challenged in several federal courts, which may delay the effective date.

With this reinterpretation, the government has expanded the grounds on which it can deny immigration benefits to various applicants seeking permanent residence (green card) status or work authorization to include those who have obtained certain public benefits such as cash welfare or housing assistance. In addition, not only will this new interpretation apply to those who have already sought certain public benefits, those the government believes may need such assistance in the future can also be denied. The new rules, if they take effect, will also impact those who are clearly financially secure, as it requires nearly all permanent resident applicants to file an additional form with their application and to provide evidence of self-sufficiency.

Between now and the time the rule goes into effect, there will be a great deal of discussion, interpretation, and clarification of the new rule that spans over 800 pages. Thirteen states filed lawsuits against DHS on August 14th claiming that the changes to the long-standing meaning of the term “public charge” violates the Immigration and Nationality Act, and other states, cities, and advocacy groups have filed similar suits. In the process of defending these suits, the government will provide further clarification as to how they intend to implement the rule. USCIS is also expected to issue clarifications through form instructions and other public announcements.