Last week witnessed the release of the much-dreaded final rule pertaining to the public charge ground of inadmissibility. To say that the new policy is a drastic reworking of the current practice is an understatement. The policy changes not only significantly expand the contours of what is considered a public charge but potentially arm adjudicators with additional tools to deny individuals seeking admission into the US. Since the Department of State has already implemented its own draconian public charge regulations, these new changes primarily affect people who are applying for family-based admission in the US, notably adjustment of status applicants. It also impacts certain non-immigrants requesting a change or extension of stay in the US.
Over the last year, there has been alarming uptick of consular cases denied on public charge grounds. Under this ground, a visa may be refused if the "applicant is likely, at any time after admission, to become primarily dependent on the US Government (federal, state, or local) for subsistence. Under new Department of State guidelines, the Affidavit of Support, in and of itself-even where the petitioner meets 125% of the poverty guideline level-is no longer dispositive. While a strong affidavit may serve as a positive factor, a whole host of other factors should be taken into consideration by the consular officer, including the visa applicant's "age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, and skills."