The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has begun to retroactively apply its “public charge” rule to green card applicants, after a circuit court lifted a nationwide injunction which has been in place since late July.
The rule will be applied to all pending and future permanent citizenship applications and petitions filed beginning on Feb. 24, 2020, according to a notice posted on the USCIS website.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Sept. 11 overturned a nationwide injunction on the policy imposed on July 29 by a federal judge in New York. The judge ruled that the rule would hamper efforts at stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Applications that have been approved after the injunction will not be affected.
The rule, which was first introduced last year, increases the chances of green card application rejection for immigrants who have received any of a number of welfare benefits for more than a year in a three-year period.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge George Daniels previously ruled that the rule would make it more difficult for immigrants to seek COVID-19 testing.
The Second Circuit temporarily stayed the injunction on Aug. 12.
The Trump administration has defended the public charge rule in court since introducing it in 2019. The Supreme court has twice ruled in favor of the administration.
Though simple in concept, the final rule (pdf) took up more than 200 pages in the Federal Register.
Public charge provisions have been part of U.S. immigration law since at least 1882. One of the earliest known public charge laws in colonial Massachusetts was enacted in 1645. By the end of the 1600s, many American colonies screened would-be immigrants and required bonds for those believed likely to become public charges.
Since immigrants are ineligible for most welfare programs, the rule largely applies to immigrants applying to become permanent residents from abroad.
All applicants now must submit a Declaration of Self-Sufficiency form. The form asks whether the applicant received any of several types of public benefits, including Medicaid and Food Stamps. The form also inquires about the applicant’s household income, assets, resources and financial status.
“That expectation in our law that legal immigrants who are going to stay here long-term can stand on their own two feet is a very long-standing not just tradition, but it’s a long-standing legal requirement,” Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli told CBS.
“I can cite family history in my Italian family about people who were sponsors and making sure their sponsorees had jobs and those kinds of things. That’s what we expect.”
Matthew Vadum contributed to this report.