What Does Public Charge Mean?

The Department of Homeland Security will decipher whether or not you will be a public charge during your stay in the United States before giving a final say on your admissibility. Simply put, it will likely help your application for citizenship or permanent residency if you are not branded with this label. Follow along to find out how immigration law defines being a public charge and how a proficient green card lawyer in Milwaukee, WI, at Sesini Law Group, S.C., can help you overcome this ground of inadmissibility.

What does public charge mean in immigration law?

First things first, being a public charge is typically defined as being an individual who is likely to become largely dependent on the federal government, as demonstrated by the use of cash assistance programs, government-funded institutionalized long-term care, etc. More specifically, such programs that qualify for a public charge determination read as follows:

  • Social Security Insurance (SSI).
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
  • State or local cash assistance programs.
  • Medicaid coverage for long-term institutionalization programs.

Further, the Department of Homeland Security will consider your age, family status, health, education, income, assets, etc. as heavily weighted factors in determining whether or not you are a public charge. If it labels you as a public charge after reviewing these factors, then you may be deemed inadmissible to enter the United States. This is because it is unfortunately true that immigrants who are proven to be self-sufficient may be prioritized for the limited green cards that are administered each year.

However, you may rest assured knowing that you cannot be labeled as a public charge if you are of asylee, refugee, special immigrant juvenile, Afghan or Iraqi translator or interpreter, or Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioner status. What’s more, the government-funded benefits you receive from a family member may not qualify as being considered a public charge. Other government-funded benefits that do not count include disaster relief benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, tax credits, stimulus checks, etc.

What can I do to overcome this ground of inadmissibility?

For one, if you are specifically applying for a family-based adjustment of status, then Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, may help you overcome being labeled a public charge. This is because the family member who fills out Form I-864 on your behalf will essentially declare that they will act as your financial sponsor during your stay in the United States. What may help even further is if your family member seeks a joint sponsor for this petition.

If done with careful consideration, there are many benefits to filling out this form. So please seek the assistance of a talented Milwaukee, WI family immigration lawyer from Sesini Law Group, S.C. We look forward to having a conversation with you.

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