Immigration Status & Public Charge

Headline:

USCIS is automatically extending the validity of Green Cards to 24 months for lawful permanent residents who file a Form I-90 to renew an expiring or expired Green Card.

Last-reviewed: 9am, Oct. 6, 2022

Key Resources:

The Basics

  • USCIS is automatically extending the validity of Green Cards to 24 months for lawful permanent residents who file a Form I-90 to renew an expiring or expired Green Card.
  • The RIAN Center continues to work remotely. Apply for a free legal consultation by calling 617-542-7654.
  • All non-US citizen, foreign nationals must provide proof of full vaccination (but no longer need to provide a negative COVID-19 test result) before inbound air travel to the US. More information can be found here.
  • All MA residents over 6 months of age are eligible for the free COVID-19 vaccine (and those 5+ for the booster), regardless of immigration status.
  • USCIS has extended some COVID-19-related flexibilities through October 23, 2022 to help applicants, petitioners, and requestors respond to requests for information.
  • On August 8, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will end the “Remain in Mexico” policy and will allow asylum-seekers to enter the US.
  • DHS has issued a new regulation to preserve and strengthen DACA for eligible noncitizens who arrived in the US as children, often called “Dreamers.”
  • DHS has published a final public charge rule that will be effective on December 23, 2022.
  • Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is facing a civil lawsuit and is under criminal investigation for his role in flying Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard on September 14, 2022.

The Breakdown

  • USCIS field offices and asylum offices have reopened. Visitors must follow this COVID-19 policy. Naturalization ceremonies as well as in-person interviews and appointments have also resumed.
  • Boston Immigration Court reopened for all matters. Case information is available online with a 9-digit alien registration number (A-#########) or by calling the Executive Office of Administration Review at 1-800-898-7180.
  • Processing times for immigration applications are taking several months to over a year. People can check how long it is taking USCIS to process applications here.
  • On September 9, 2022, DHS published a final public charge rule that allows eligible immigrants and their families to safely access health, nutrition, and housing benefits without jeopardizing their future immigration applications. Read DHS’s press release here. The final rule is effective December 23, 2022, meaning that it will apply to immigration applications postmarked on or after that date. (Until then, the 1999 Field Guidance will continue to apply.)
  • Under the new public charge rule, DHS will not consider in public charge determinations benefits received by family members other than the applicant. In addition, the benefits on this non-exhaustive list are not considered for public charge:
    • SNAP (food stamps) and WIC
    • MassHealth/Medicaid (except for long-term institutionalization)
    • Public housing
    • Section 8
    • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
    • Affordable Connectivity Program

Protecting Immigrant Families has updated public charge guidance for advocates here.

USCIS does not consider COVID-19 vaccines and boosters when making public charge determinations. Protecting Immigrant Families has developed a COVID-19 vaccination video for immigrant families to assure them that getting the vaccine will have no immigration status consequences. The video is available in 9 languages here.

  • USCIS has updated its public charge resources webpage to clarify current policy, explain the new rule, and reduce its chilling effect on benefits access in immigrant communities.
  • USCIS announced that it is automatically extending the validity of Green Cards to 24 months for lawful permanent residents who file a Form I-90 to renew an expiring or expired Green Card.
  • USCIS has taken several actions in early September, including: resumed operations under the Cuban Family Reunification Parole program; extending and expanding employment authorization for Liberians covered by Deferred Enforced Departure; and announcing a re-registration process for current Venezuelan temporary protected status (TPS) beneficiaries.
  • DHS has extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Burma through May 25, 2024 and redesignated Burman for TPS permitting Burmese nationals living in the US as of September 25, 2022 to be eligible for TPS. Learn more here.
  • After a federal appeals court rejected the Biden administration’s policy regarding enforcement priorities, the administration appealed the decision to the US Supreme Court. SCOTUS then denied the administration’s request to reinstate its immigration enforcement priorities but agreed to hear the case later this year. The Homeland Security policy had instructed immigration agencies to prioritize three categories of noncitizens for arrest and detention: recent border crossers, those who pose a threat to national security or a threat to public safety.
  • On June 30, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled that the Biden administration could end the “Remain in Mexico” immigration policy that originated under the Trump administration. The program, officially called the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), forced thousands of asylum seekers to return to Mexico while waiting for their immigration cases to be heard in the US. On August 8, 2022, Homeland Security announced that it will end the MPP and permit asylum-seekers to enter the US while they await immigration court action on their asylum applications.
  • USCIS announced that the agency will increase the automatic extension period of work permits for certain applicants to avoid gaps in employment for certain noncitizens.
  • USCIS announced that the agency will consider granting deferred action on a case-by-case basis to noncitizens classified as Special Immigrant Juveniles who are ineligible to apply for adjustment of status solely due to unavailable immigrant visa numbers.
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is available for certain nationals from Cameroon, Haiti, Ukraine, and many other countries. For a list of countries designated for TPS, and the eligibility requirements for certain nationals, visit the USCIS TPS webpage here.
  • DHS recently extended the designation of Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) through March 10, 2024 for existing Venezuelan TPS beneficiaries.
  • Some Cuban and Haitian Entrants may be eligible for benefits such as cash assistance, medical assistance, job placement, and other services through the Office of Refugee Resettlement. A fact sheet for eligibility and benefits can be found here.
  • Afghans who enter the US on a humanitarian parole between July 31, 2021, and September 30, 2022, and certain Afghans paroled into the US after September 30, 2021, will now be eligible for resettlement benefits, including food benefits. More information can be found here.
  • Under the United for Ukraine emergency package signed by President Biden on May 21, 2022, Ukrainians granted humanitarian parole can now qualify for federal needs-based benefits on the same basis as immigrants granted refugee or asylum. DHS has updated the COVID-19 vaccination requirements for Uniting for Ukraine parolees to include all beneficiaries ages 6 months and older.
  • DHS announced that they are extending the validity of Temporary Protected Status (TPS)-related documentation – including employment-related documentation – for beneficiaries of six countries through December 31, 2022.
  • USCIS announced a new policy that will allow persons with pending U visa applications to obtain employment authorization. USCIS has called this process the Bona Fide Determination process – where the application is completed without intention of deceit or fraud – to allow applicants to support themselves while they pursue justice.
  • On February 1, 2021, DHS put out a statement assuring the public that all individuals living in the United States, regardless of their immigration status, should have access to the COVID-19 vaccine. DHS stated that it will not conduct enforcement operations at or near vaccine distribution sites or clinics.
  • On August 24, 2022, DHS issued a final rule that will preserve and fortify DACA for those young people who came to the US as children, have no current lawful immigration status, and are already low enforcement priorities for removal. The final rule, effective October 31, 2022, keeps the current threshold criteria for DACA applicants, maintains the current process for work authorization for DACA applicants, and affirms the DHS policy that DACA does not provide recipients with lawful status but allows them to be considered “lawfully present” for certain purposes. More information and application forms can be found on the USCIS website.
  • Penn State Law has put together a resource list for Afghan Nationals seeking legal help or support services. More information can be found here.
  • The Higher Ed Immigration Portal is a new website aimed at providing resources to immigrant students. The website provides information related to financial assistance for undocumented students. It also provides other information that may be helpful while navigating the education system as an immigrant.
  • Republican governors in Texas, Arizona, and Florida have been sending migrants by bus and plane to “blue states” like Massachusetts. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis faces a civil lawsuit and criminal investigation for orchestrating a scheme to fly Venezuelan migrants (many of whom are lawfully seeking asylum in the US) from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in September 2022. Learn more here.

The Bottom Line

  • Constant changes to immigration law and policies make an uncertain time even more uncertain for immigrant populations. Families with questions about public charge should connect with immigration experts to have their specific questions and needs evaluated.