The public charge rule, which becomes effective October 15, 2019, may impact how legal immigrants in Kentucky and across the nation obtain their U.S. citizenship status. According to CNN, the policy may prevent you from obtaining naturalization if you are “primarily dependent” upon public assistance programs. These programs may include food stamps, medical care and housing assistance.

Officially recognized as the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds, the new rule allegedly does not adequately define who is considered a “primarily dependent” legal immigrant. The definition provided in 1996 only affected individuals who received cash benefits, which included social security and food stamp assistance. The new public charge rule, however, expands the definition of cash benefits to include different types of Medicaid and housing vouchers received from the government. The general definition of a “public charge” is someone who is dependent on government assistance for their support.

If you apply for and receive one or more types of public assistance benefits for at least 12 months during a 36-month timeframe, you may find it more difficult to make an adjustment of status. If you receive two forms of assistance in the same month, it counts as two months. The Department of Homeland Security estimates that the new ruling may affect about 382,000 individuals.

Under the new ruling, you may face greater challenges when applying for permanent residency through a green card if you are receiving public assistance benefits that total more than 50% of your income. A study conducted by the CATO Institute, however, revealed that immigrants are less likely to apply for public assistance. When they do, the dollar amount of the assistance provided is much less than what a natural-born U.S. citizen would receive.

This information is for educational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as legal advice.