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How proposed regulations could affect the green card process

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It could become harder to get a green card for people who might use public assistance.

The Department of Homeland Security is proposing new regulations that would make it harder for green card applicants to prove that they are not “likely to become a public charge.” A “public charge” is a person who needs income-based public assistance in the United States. In most family immigration cases, if you are likely to become a public charge, you can’t get a green card. Here’s the answer to some important questions about the proposed rules. I’ll address more questions in coming columns.

Q. When do the new regulations take effect?

A. The new regulations won’t take effect for several months. Benefits you receive now will not impact your rights. The proposal must first be published in the federal register, a daily publication of proposed and final rules. After publication, the public will have sixty days to comment. DHS will then issue a final rule and a date the rule will take effect, sometime after the comment period. You can expect to see court challenges to the rule that could slow implementation.

Q. I’m a permanent resident (green card holder). If I get public benefits, will I have a harder time becoming a U.S. citizen? Will applying for a fee waiver with my naturalization application impact my case?

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A. The proposed rule does not impact applicants for U.S. citizenship. If you qualify for a public benefit or fee waiver, you can get it without concern that it will affect your right to naturalize.

Q. Are there any worries for permanent residents?

A. Yes. If you get income-based public assistance, and you are abroad for more than 180 days, a Customs and Border Protection officer may try to bar you from reentry into the United States.

Q. I’m undocumented so I don’t qualify for public assistance, but my U.S. born children do. If they get food stamps or Medicaid, will that impact my permanent residence application?

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A. No. Aid to U.S. citizen children will not impact the rights of their non-citizen parents.

Q. Are there benefits the proposed rules exempt from consideration?

A. Many. Among them are emergency Medicaid, state and local funded benefits, disaster relief and benefits received by the family of active duty military members.

Allan Wernick is an attorney and director of the City University of New York’s Citizenship Now! project. Send questions and comments to Allan Wernick, New York Daily News, 7th Fl., 4 New York Plaza, New York, N.Y., 10004 or email to questions@allanwernick.com. Follow him on Twitter @awernick.


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