Public Charge Rule and COVID-19

How does the Public Charge rule affect those who want to seek testing and treatment and for those who were laid off or furloughed because of COVID-19

Can you get tested, screened, or treated for COVID-19 using a public benefit, such as Medicaid or Medi-Cal?

According to USCIS, yes. This type of preventive or treatment service will not negatively affect a future public charge analysis. This was posted by USCIS on its public charge webpage here. USCIS states that they consider many different factors when they analyze whether an applicant for immigration benefits will likely be a public charge and will take in the totality of the circumstances over a period of time with no single factor weighing more than another. Quoting USCIS directly:

USCIS will neither consider testing, treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19 as part of a public charge inadmissibility determination, nor as related to the public benefit condition applicable to certain nonimmigrants seeking an extension of stay or change of status, even if such treatment is provided or paid for by one or more public benefits, as defined in the rule (e.g. federally funded Medicaid).

https://www.uscis.gov/greencard/public-charge

What if I’m laid off or furloughed, and I need to rely on public benefits?

For those who can apply for unemployment, unemployment insurance benefits are not considered under the public charge rule.

For others, USCIS will be flexible in this situation as well. USCIS says that the applicant should submit a letter, detailing the circumstances that lead the applicant to be laid off or furloughed and that the applicant needs to rely on public benefits, with the adjustment or change of status application. Just be as forthcoming, open, and transparent as you can. Provide as much documentation as you can as well, including letters from your employer and colleagues, any letter that says you were laid off or furloughed when you anticipate returning to work, efforts of finding a new job, and many more details.

What is the Public Charge Rule?

The Public Charge rule took effect on February 24, 2020. Any application for adjustment of status, change of status, extension of a nonimmigrant visa, or change of nonimmigrant status must submit a Form I-944, demonstrating that they will not be more likely than not to have to rely on public benefits. There is a long list of public benefits that are included: any federal, state, local, or tribal cash assistance, including TANF and SSI, SNAP, Section 8, and most federally funded Medicaid programs. There’s also a long list of exemptions from the public charge rule: receipt of Medicaid for emergency purposes, Medicaid benefits for individuals under the age of 21, Medicaid received by a woman during pregnancy and for 60 days after giving birth.

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