Immigration is an incredibly expensive process. Whether you are someone who legally works as a migrant farmhand, following crops around the country or you want to apply for a visa related to a skilled position with a company, your current financial circumstances can play a role in the success of your efforts.

There has been a rule in federal immigration policy about considering whether someone may become a public charge for many years, but the rule is now part of stricter immigration enforcement policies. As of Feb. 24, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will look very closely at your family’s financial circumstances, whether you have been a public charge and whether you will likely be a public charge in the future when deciding on your status.

What constitutes a public charge?

Not everyone who receives some sort of state benefit or entitlement is automatically a public charge. Instead, there are certain standards that the individual or their family members must meet to wind up considered a public charge by the USCIS.

When considering if someone has become a public charge, the general rule is whether they have received 12 months of state benefits in the last 36 months. Each benefit that an applicant or their family members received counts as one month. If you receive both Medicaid and food stamps for one month, that contributes two months to the total for your application.

Planning ahead to avoid public benefits can help those seeking immigration

Needing short-term benefits due to an unexpected gap in employment or a sudden emergency can happen to anyone. However, the longer you remain on state benefits, the greater the likelihood that those benefits will impact your immigration application. Both those applying for entry into the United States and those who already reside in the United States are vulnerable to being refused entry or even deported, as well as the denial of a green card due to concerns about the public charge rule.

Between travel, legal costs and establishing a life in a new country, immigration into the United States can cost many thousands of dollars. Those intending to immigrate in the near future will absolutely need to consider the potential need for state benefits and how that could impact their application.