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Public Charge Rule Delayed as Federal Courts Issue Nationwide Injunctions

October 17, 2019

The Public Charge Rule, which had been scheduled to be implemented on October 15, 2019, was halted by U.S. District Courts in New York, California and Washington state late last week.

The preliminary injunctions issued in New York and Washington were nationwide and the California injunction covers the states included in the San Francisco-based Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge George Daniels of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan issued his nationwide preliminary injunction stating that the government did not adequately explain why it was changing the definition of a public charge or why a change was needed.

Under the new definitions relating to public charge, enrollment in the widely used Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), certain federally funded Medicaid benefits and a variety of government-subsidized housing programs, including Section 8 vouchers, would be considered as factors in determining whether one would be more likely than not to use the considered benefits for 12 months or longer over the span of three years.

For the moment, it appears that applicants for adjustment of status in the United States may continue to file for residence and use current forms in support of their applications.

It is important to note that none of the federal courts ruled on the effect that the public charge rules would have on the U.S. Department of State and consular processing for immigrant visas abroad. It is assumed that applicants for immigrant visas – both family and employment-based – will be subject to the new rules. Interestingly, consular officials abroad do not yet have a roadmap or training on the new rules and implementation may be challenging.

For more information on the public charge rules proposals, see our prior alerts: The Department of Homeland Security Issues Final “Public Charge” Rule in the Federal Register – Lawsuits Ensue and A Brief Analysis of the Department of Homeland Security's "Public Charge" Proposed Regulations.

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