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Updates From Our Immigration Attorneys in New Orleans, LA

Update on Trump Tweet: Immigration Applications within the U.S. are not Affected; Very Few Implications for Applications Abroad

As a response to his April 20, 2020 tweet, President Trump issued a Presidential Proclamation on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.

The proclamation halts the issuance of immigrant visas for individuals outside of the US for 60 days. The proclamation does not impact individuals inside the US.

The proclamation does not affect individuals who already have been issued an immigrant visa or lawful permanent residents who are outside the US.

The proclamation impacts only immigrant visas; nonimmigrant visas are not affected. The term “immigrant visa” has a very specific and limited meaning in immigration law. It refers only to visas allowing admission to the United States as a lawful permanent resident. This proclamation does not apply to individuals applying for visas for temporary admission to the United States (e.g., tourists, students, temporary employment, exchange visitors, etc.).

The following people who are applying for immigrant visas are exempt from the proclamation:

  • The spouse and minor children of US citizens and prospective adoptees entering pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
  • Physicians, nurses and healthcare professionals and their spouse and unmarried minor children;
  • Individuals who will carry out research on COVID-19 or perform work related to COVID-19;
  • Individuals seeking to enter pursuant to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program;
  • Members of the US military and their spouses and children;
  • Individuals seeking to enter pursuant to a Special Immigrant Visa in the SI or SQ classification, and their spouse and children;
  • Individuals whose entry would further US law enforcement objectives; and
  • Individuals whose entry would be in the national interest.

Who is impacted by the proclamation?

Per the proclamation, for the next 60 days the State Department will not issue immigrant visas for:

  • the spouse and children of lawful permanent residents;
  • the parents, adult children, and siblings of US citizens; and
  • most employment-based immigrant visas.

However, due to the fact that consulates have been closed because of coronavirus concerns, the proclamation will have little impact on anyone.

Analysis of Trump’s Tweet

Last night on the evening of April 20, 2020, President Trump tweeted that he is going to temporarily suspend immigration to the United States. The White House has not provided any details regarding exactly what categories of applicants this announcement impacts, nor do we know whether this will be a legally enforceable action. Thus, although we are concerned and disappointed at this announcement, it is not a cause to panic. Rather, this announcement is most likely political maneuvering. Whether or not there will be additional legally enforceable barriers to U.S. immigration remains to be seen. As of the time of this writing, there has been no change in immigration policy due to the president’s tweet.

Many immigration benefits adjudications that require in-person interviews have already been temporarily suspended due to government agency closures following state and local shutdowns due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19. However, government agencies that adjudicate immigration benefits, such as the Department of Homeland Security’s USCIS, remain open and continue adjudicating applications that do not require in-person interviews. In addition, although Immigration Courts with non-detained dockets have suspended hearings, they continue to accept filings many of which have deadlines that have not been altered. Finally, while consular offices are closed for routine operations out of COVID-19 concerns, the National Visa Center continues to process visa applications. Consular interviews, however, will not resume until the consulates reopen. Note that these were changes in response to the threat of COVID-19 and NOT as a result of the president’s announcement last night.

As soon as we have information about the new policy the president referred to, we will update you on the policy and on how it may affect particular types of cases. At this time, however, we believe it is best to proceed with applications so that they can be submitted to the appropriate government agency before any proposed suspension is put in place.

Our office is open and continues operations during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, please contact us by phone or email, or get the latest information by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter.

Please know that we strongly disagree with the president’s announcement and we appreciate the many important contributions immigrants make to the United States, especially those working so hard to keep us safe during the pandemic.

Public Charge Information

What is public charge?

“Public charge” is a ground of inadmissibility. Grounds of inadmissibility are reasons that a person could be denied a green card, visa, or admission into the United States. In deciding whether to grant an applicant a green card or a visa, an immigration officer must decide whether that person is likely to become dependent on certain government benefits in the future.

Who is affected?

The new public charge guidelines affect people who are applying for admission to the U.S. or for lawful permanent residence. The guidelines do not apply to humanitarian immigrants such as refugees; asylees; survivors of domestic violence, trafficking, and other serious crimes; special immigrant juveniles; and certain individuals paroled into the U.S. The guidelines also do not apply to individuals applying for naturalization.

What benefits are considered in making a public charge determination?

The government will look at whether the applicant received federally funded Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP” or food stamps), cash assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Section 8 housing assistance and federally subsidized housing.

Can my family members receive public assistance?

Benefits received by an applicant’s family members will not be considered in the public charge determination. Additionally, Medicaid received by applicants while under age 21, while pregnant (and up to 60 days after pregnancy), or during an emergency are not considered.

If I use Medicaid or food stamps, will I definitely be found to be a public charge?

Receipt of benefits is only one factor that the government will look at. The government will also consider the applicant’s age, health, household size, education, employment, credit score, and English proficiency.

Moreover, if an applicant receives benefits during the coronavirus lockdown, the applicant can write a statement to include with their application, explaining the reason for their limited use of public benefits.

Will getting tested for coronavirus affect whether I’m considered a public charge?

No. Any health service that you take advantage of related to the coronavirus will not be considered in deciding whether you are a public charge. Therefore, all immigrants should take advantage of any testing, screening or treatment available to the general public without fear of that affecting their immigration application even if the health service is provided free to the public or paid for by Medicaid.

Immigrants and their families can continue to seek services at community health centers, regardless of their immigration status, and at a reduced cost or free of charge, depending on their income. To find the nearest health center, go to https://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/

Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

Unemployment benefits differ depending on what state you live in. Generally, however, unemployment benefits are available to individuals who have a right to work and who have earned sufficient hours over the past several work quarters. You are eligible for unemployment benefits only if you have a current work permit or have been granted asylum.

Will receiving unemployment affect whether I’m considered a public charge?

No. Unemployment benefits are not considered ‘public benefits.’ Therefore, receipt of unemployment benefits does not affect whether USCIS will consider you a public charge.

Will I receive a check from the federal stimulus plan?

Stimulus checks will only be sent out to individuals who have a Social Security number. If the taxpayer, spouse or child has an ITIN number, they will not be eligible for the stimulus check.

There are many scams on the internet regarding the stimulus payment. Remember, the IRS will not call, text you, email you or contact you on social media asking for personal or bank account information – even related to the economic impact payments.

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