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How Does the Federal CARES Act Affect Immigrants in the United States?

 Posted on April 10,2020 in Immigration

The worldwide pandemic of COVID-19 has changed the way we live in just a matter of months. Local governments have issued “stay at home” orders and non-essential businesses have been closed for an indefinite amount of time. Individuals across the globe are practicing social distancing in an effort to flatten the curve for the number of new cases. Recently, the U.S. federal government announced the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The largest economic relief bill in U.S. history, the stimulus package will allocate $2.2 trillion in support to individuals and businesses affected by the economic plunge due to the virus. Those people who are in the midst of the U.S. immigration application process may be wondering how the CARES Act will affect their cases, especially in regards to the new Public Charge rule.

Public Charge Rule

Itasca immigration lawyerIn response to the coronavirus crisis, USCIS recently announced that the Public Charge rule cannot restrict access to testing, screening, or treatment of communicable diseases, including COVID-19. A Public Charge is defined as an individual who cannot support themselves through employment, financial assets, or assistance from family and instead relies on government benefits. According to U.S. immigration law, an individual who is considered likely to become a public charge is “inadmissible.” This means that they can be denied a Green Card or visa to be admitted into the country. The new Public Charge rule expands the types of publicly funded programs that are used to assess if a person is likely to become a public charge in the future.

Certain immigrants who are residing in the United States, such as DACA recipients, may be eligible for the COVID-19 stimulus package payment that is on its way to families and individuals. However, some are concerned that this payment could be classified as a public benefit, which could influence a public charge determination later.

The USCIS policy manual offers guidance on whether or not the CARES Act payments are considered public benefits. It has been determined that USCIS should not consider acceptance of such payments when making Public Charge determinations. This applies to immigrants who are living and working in a jurisdiction where social distancing or quarantines are in place, or if the immigrant’s employer or school closes operations to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The individual may still submit an adjustment of status application with an explanation of how these prevention methods have impacted him or her in regard to the factors considered in a public charge inadmissibility determination.

The USCIS announcement came after congressional leaders asked the current White House Administration to rescind the new Public Charge rule in response to immigrants seeking medical treatment related to coronavirus. Health officials hope strict lockdown efforts across the world are helping to contain the spread of the virus. The latest news reports point to the number of new cases leveling off in some areas.

Contact an Itasca Immigration Lawyer

COVID-19 has impacted people all over the world. At Unzueta Law Group, P.C., we understand the uncertainty of this time and we are fully prepared to offer our assistance for your legal matters during the crisis. If you or your loved one is concerned about your immigration case during this unprecedented time, we can help. Our DuPage County immigration attorneys are attuned to the latest federal programs related to immigration. Call our office today at 630-509-2363 to schedule a private consultation.


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