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Rule changes could affect residency status of some immigrants

Immigration Services

Many people, citizens and non-citizens alike, need help from time to time. Some people in Kentucky or elsewhere in the United States are only able to find low-paying work, or they may have lost their job, putting them in a difficult financial state. Others are just starting out in our nation and may be actively looking for work to support themselves, but need some assistance in the meantime. These individuals may qualify for government benefits to help them through a tough time, until things pick up again. However, non-citizens and dependents of non-citizens should be aware that changes to federal rules regarding immigrants and government benefits are being reviewed that could affect them and their loved ones.

The federal Office of Management and Budget is currently reviewing a change to immigration rules that could affect immigrants who are lawfully residing in our country. Under current law, an immigrant will not be approved for a family or diversity visa if he or she would become a "public charge," that is, likely to need to apply for cash government benefits, which is narrow in its scope. However, under the proposed changes, the scope of "public charge" will be expanded to apply to immigrants or their dependents, even if the dependents are citizens of the United States, who need to apply for any cash or non-cash government benefits. Some examples of non-cash government benefits include Medicaid and food stamps, to name a few.

The Migration Policy Institute reports that almost 50 percent of the non-citizen population could be deemed a public charge under the proposed rule changes. Between 2014 and 2016, nearly 18 million naturalized citizens and non-citizens resided in a household in which one or more of them received government benefits in some form. It is feared that if this rule is passed, immigrants will go without food, medical care or other needs in order to retain their legal status.

Many immigrants come to our nation in order to eventually obtain U.S. permanent residency. However, these proposed rule changes could stop the most vulnerable ones from doing so. Whether these changes will be approved remains to be seen.

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