Starting on October 15, the use of public welfare benefits will negatively affect your eligibility for immigration and immigration status changes. This is due to the new criteria for “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” which limits the capacity for individuals and families with low income to enter or extend their stay in the U.S.

In its final decision on the matter, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services said that self-sufficiency has been a part of immigration law for a long time. The new rules clarify the issue, stating that receiving public benefits or being likely to receive benefits in the future (making you a public charge) will have a negative effect on your immigration eligibility.

Who is immune?

Certain immigrant groups are immune to this regulation, including refugees, asylees and Afghans and Iraqis with special immigration visas. This law applies to all other groups, including foreign citizens seeking any type of U.S. visa abroad, potential immigrants seeking admission to the U.S. on immigrant and non-immigrant visas and current visa holders seeking to change their status to legal permanent resident with a green card.

What does this mean for you?

Applying for immigration will be more difficult for immigrants with limited income and petitions for status changes will be awarded more sparingly.

If you are a Pennsylvania resident on a temporary visa, your ability to extend that visa or apply for a green card is in jeopardy. Given recent regulation changes, it is more important than ever to consult an experienced immigration attorney who can explain the process and assist you through any special circumstances that might arise.