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Field Guidance on Deportability and Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds [64 FR 28689]
FEDERAL REGISTER CITE:
64 FR 28689
DATE OF PUBLICATION:
May 26, 1999
BILLING CODE 4410-10
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Immigration and Naturalization Service
[INS No. 1988-99]
Field Guidance on Deportability and Inadmissibility
on Public Charge Grounds
Immigration and Naturalization Service, Justice.
The Department of Justice (Department) is publishing a
proposed rule in this issue of the
which proposes to establish clear standards governing a determination that an alien is inadmissible or ineligible to adjust status, or has become deportable, on public charge grounds.
Before the proposed rule becomes final, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (Service) is publishing its field guidance on public charge issues as an attachment to this notice. This is necessary to help alleviate public confusion over the meaning of the term "public charge" in immigration law and its relationship to the receipt of Federal, State, and local public benefits. This field guidance will also provide aliens with better guidance as to the types of public benefits that will and will not be con
sidered in public charge determinations.
This notice and field guidance are effective May 21, 1999.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Sophia Cox or Kevin Cummings,
Immigration and Naturalization Service, 525 I Street, NW, Office of Adjudications, Washington, DC 20536, telephone (202) 514-4754.
Recent immigration and welfare reform laws have generated considerable public confusion about the relationship between the receipt of Federal, State, and local public benefits and the meaning of "public charge" in immigration statutes governing deportation, admissibility, and adjustment of status. The Department decided to publish a proposed rule defining "public charge" in order to reduce the negative public health consequences generated by the existing confusion and to provide aliens with better guidan
ce as to the types of public benefits that will and will not be considered in public charge determinations.
In addition, the Service has issued guidance to its field officers on a variety of issues related to public charge determinations. That field guidance is included as an attachment to this notice to provide additional information to the public on the Service's implementation of the public charge provisions of the immigration laws.
May 20, 1999
Commissioner,Immigration and Naturalization Service.
U.S. Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service
May 20, 1999.
Memorandum for All Regional Directors
Michael A. Pearson, Executive Associate Commissioner, Office of Field Operations
Public Charge: INA Sections 212(a)(4) and 237(a)(5)
This memorandum provides guidance concerning the public charge ground of inadmissibility, section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), and the related deportation charge under section 237(a)(5) of the INA. It also discusses the impact of these subsections of the new enforceable Affidavit of Support prescribed by section 213A of the INA, established by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) and welfare reform laws.
IIRIRA and the recent welfare reform laws have sparked public confusion about the relationship between the receipt of federal, state, local public benefits and the meaning of ``public charge'' under the immigration laws. Accordingly, the Service is taking two steps to ensure the accurate and uniform application of law and policy in this area. First, the Service is issuing this memorandum which both summarizes longstanding law with respect to public charge and provides new guidance on public charge determina
tions in light of the recent changes in law. In addition, the Service is publishing a proposed rule for notice and comment that will for the first time define "public charge" and discuss evidence relevant to public charge determinations. Although the definition of public charge is the same for both admission/adjustment and deportation, the standards of public charge is the same for both admission/adjustment and deportation, the standards applied to public charge adjudications in each context are significant
ly different and are addressed separately in this memorandum. After discussing the definition and standards for public charge determinations, the memorandum goes on to discuss exceptions from public charge determinations and particular types of benefits that may and may not be considered for public charge purposes, in addition to other issues.
I. Definition of "Public Charge"
The Service is publishing a rule for notice and comment that defines "public charge" or purposes of both admission/adjustment and deportation. That rule proposes that "public charge" means an alien who has become (for deportation purposes) or who is likely to become (for admission/adjustment purposes) "primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either (i) the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or (ii) institutionalization for long-term care at government
expense." Institutionalization for short periods of rehabilitation does not constitute such primary dependence.
The Service is adopting this definition immediately, while allowing the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed rule. Accordingly, officers should not initiate or pursue public charge deportation cases against aliens who have not received public cash benefits for income maintenance or who have not been institutionalized for long-term care. Similarly, officers should not place any weight on the receipt of non-cash public benefits (other than institutionalization) or the receipt of cash benefits for
purposes other than for income maintenance with respect to determinations of admissibility or eligibility for adjustment on public charge grounds. Supplementary guidance will be issued, as necessary, in conjunction with publication of a final rule.
See section 6, below, for a more detailed discussion of particular types of benefits that may and may not be considered for public charge purposes.
2. Admission and Adjustment of Status
Under INA section 212(a)(4), an alien seeking admission to the United States or seeking to adjust status to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence is inadmissible if the alien, "at the time of application for admission or adjustment of status, is likely at any time to become a public charge."
IIRIRA amended section 212(a)(4) of the INA to codify the factors relevant to a public charge determination. Officers must consider, at a minimum, the alien's age, health, family status, assets, resources, and financial status, and education and skills when making a public charge inadmissibility determination. Every denial order based on public charge must reflect consideration of each of these factors and specifically articulate the reasons for the officer's determination.
The most significant change to section 212(a)(4) under IIRIRA is the creation of a new affidavit of support (AOS), which, coupled with new section 213A, imposes on the sponsor a legally enforceable support obligation. The law requires that sponsors demonstrate that they are able to maintain the sponsored alien at an annual income of not less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level. The AOS requirement applies to all immediate relatives (including orphans), family-based immigrants, and those employment
-based immigrants who will work for a relative or for a firm in which a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LDR) relative holds a 5 percent or more ownership interest. Immigrants seeking admission or adjustment of status in these categories are inadmissible under subparagraphs (C) and (D) of the modified section 212(a)(4), respectively, unless an appropriate sponsor has completed and filed a new AOS if the application for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status was filed on or after December 19, 19
97. Note that this requirement applies to these aliens even if, under the factors codified in section 212(a)(4)(B), the adjudicator would ordinarily find that the alien is not likely to become a public charge. The only exceptions from this requirement are for qualified battered spouses and children (and their eligible family members) and for qualified widow(er)s of citizens, if these aliens have filed visa petitions on their own behalf. Where such an AOS has been filed on an alien's behalf, it should be co
nsidered along with the statutory factors in the public charge determination.
The standard for adjudicating inadmissibility under section 212(a)(4) has been developed in several Service, BIA, and Attorney General decisions and has been codified in the Service regulations implementing the legalization provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. These decisions and regulations, and section 212(a)(4) itself, create a "totality of the circumstances" test.
In determining whether an alien is likely to become a public charge, Service officers should assess the financial responsibility of the alien by examining the "totality of the alien's circumstances at the time of his or her application * * * The existence or absence of a particular factor should never be the sole criterion for determining if an alien is likely to become a public charge. The determination of financial responsibility should be a prospective evaluation based on the alien's age, health, family
status, assets, resources and financial status, education, and skills, among other factors.
An alien may be considered likely to become a public charge even if there is no legal obligation to reimburse the benefit-granting agency for the benefits or services received, in contrast to the standards for deportation, discussed below.
In addition, the Attorney General has ruled that "[s]ome specific circumstances, such as mental or physical disability, advanced age, or other fact reasonably tending to show that the burden of supporting the alien is likely to be cast on the public, must be present. A healthy person in the prime of life cannot ordinarily be considered likely to become a public charge, especially where he has friends or relatives in the United States who have indicated their ability and willingness to come to his assistance
in case of an emergency."
Under the new AOS rules,
all family-based immigrants (and some employment-based immigrants) will have a sponsor who has indicated an ability and willingness to come to the immigrant's assistance.
Current Receipt of Cash Benefits for Income Maintenance and Current Institutionalization
If at the time of application for admission or adjustment an alien is receiving a cash public assistance for income maintenance or is institutionalized for long-term care (as discussed in section 6, below), that benefit should be taken into account under the totality of the circumstances test, along with the other statutory factors under section 212(a)(4)(B)(i) and any AOS. It is possible, for example, that an alien receiving a small amount of cash for income maintenance purposes could be determined not lik
ely to become a public charge due to other positive factors under the totality of the circumstances test. Aliens should not be asked to repay the cost of any benefits received in order to qualify for admission or adjustment.
Current receipt of non-cash benefits or the receipt of special-purpose cash benefits not for income maintenance should not be taken into account under the totality of the circumstances test in determining whether the alien is likely to become a public charge.
Past Receipt of Cash Benefits for Income Maintenance and Past
Past receipt of cash income-maintenance benefits does not automatically make an alien inadmissible as likely to become a public charge, nor does past institutionalization for long-term care at government expense. Rather this history would be one of many factors to be considered in applying the totality of the circumstances test. In the case of an alien who has received cash income-maintenance benefits in the past or who has been institutionalized for long-term care at government expense, a Service officer
determining admissibility should assess the totality of the alien's circumstances at the time of the application for admission or adjustment and make a forward-looking determination regarding the likelihood that the alien will become a public charge after admission or adjustment. The longer ago an alien received such cash benefits or was institutionalized, the less weight these factors will have as a predictor of future receipt. Also, the "length of time an applicant has received public cash assistance is
a significant factor."
The longer an alien has received cash income-maintenance benefits in the past and the greater the amount of benefits, the stronger the implication that the alien is likely to become a public charge. The negative implication of past receipt of such benefits or past institutionization, however, may be overcome by positive factors in the alien's case demonstrating an ability to be self-supporting. For instance, a work-authorized alien who has current full-time employment or an AOS should be found admissible de
spite past receipt of cash public benefits, unless there are other adverse factors in the case.
Past receipt of non-cash benefits (other than institutionalization for long-term care) should not be taken into account under the totality of the circumstances test. Similarly, past receipt of special-purpose cash benefits not for income maintenance should be not taken into account.