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KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: Changes to the “Public Charge” Test and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Presione aquí para la versión en Español

For some immigrants, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) will consider whether an immigrant is likely to become a “public charge” when it reviews the immigrant’s request for a visa or green card. A “public charge” is someone who may rely on public benefits for a significant period of time. If USCIS determines an immigrant is likely to become a public charge, it may deny an immigrant’s entry into the United States or their green card application.

The Trump administration recently issued new rules that redefine the term “public charge” in a way that will result in many more people being denied entry or a green card. The new rules went into effect on February 24, 2020. It is important for immigrants to understand whether they might be impacted by these new rules.

Catholic Migration Services would like to inform the immigrant community that the new public charge rules does not mean everyone should stop receiving any public benefits that they need for their family. Therefore, before withdrawing from any public benefits you are currently receiving, we encourage you to speak with a trusted immigration attorney.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Public Charge

Medical Treatment
USCIS has clarified that seeking or using medical treatment or preventative healthcare services related to COVID-19 will NOT be considered under the public charge rule, even if the services are Medicaid-funded.

Unemployment Benefits
Unemployment insurance benefits are not, in and of themselves, taken into consideration by the USCIS for purposes of making a public charge determination. Guidance issued by the USCIS states that unemployment benefits are not considered by USCIS in a public charge inadmissibility determination as unemployment insurance is considered by USCIS as an “earned” benefit.

Please note that we will update this page routinely as we learn more about how COVID-19 specific state and federal assistance packages may intersect with the new public charge rule in upcoming weeks.

The New Rule – Who it Applies To:

  • You are in the U.S. and plan to apply for a green card or visa → The new public charge rules may affect you. You should speak with an immigration lawyer to learn more about the possible impact.
  • You or your family plans to apply for a green card or visa from outside the U.S. → The new public charge rules may affect you. You should speak with an immigration lawyer to learn more about the possible impact.

The New Rule – Who it Does Not Apply to:

  • You are already a U.S. citizen, DACA recipient, U or T Visa holder, TPS holder, or have SIJS status, or have status as an asylee or refugee, or are applying for any of these statuses → The new rules do not affect you. Benefits you receive while in this status will not be counted against you in the future if you apply for a green card.
  • You and your family are green card holders → The new public charge rules do not affect you unless you leave the country for more than 6 months.

If the new rules affect you, USCIS may count it against you if you use any of the following benefits for a lengthy period: Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), state general relief or general assistance, Medicaid institutionalization for long-term care, non-emergency Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and public housing.

The government will not consider receipt of the following types of benefits when determining public charge: emergency medical assistance, disaster relief, national school lunch or school breakfast programs, foster care or adoption, Head Start, Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), WIC, the Earned Income Tax Credit, or the Child Tax Credit.

For Free Help

All immigrants who may apply for an immigration benefit in the future should seek advice about whether receipt of public benefits may impact their ability to apply for that future benefit. For more information on the public charge rule and whether it affects you, call the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636 between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday.

To speak with an attorney or immigration counselor with Catholic Migration Services, please call our office Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at (718) 236-3000 or (347) 472-3500.

Download this update as a PDF.

Update from Catholic Migration Services Regarding Office Operations and Assisting Clients During COVID-19

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Catholic Migration Services is continuing to assist existing and new clients during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak. However, we have limited our office operations to reduce health risks to visitors, staff and volunteers. For the health and safety of all, please do not come to our offices unless instructed to do so by a staff member of Catholic Migration Services.

For Individuals with Scheduled Appointments
If you already have an appointment scheduled to meet with someone at Catholic Migration Services, a staff member from our office will contact you to discuss holding the appointment by phone or rescheduling for a later date.

For Individuals Seeking Legal Assistance for the First Time
If you do not have an appointment scheduled and are seeking assistance, please see below for information about how to obtain immigration, housing or employment legal services.

Immigration
If you are not a client and are calling for immigration help, please call (718) 236-3000 in Brooklyn or (347) 472-3500 in Queens and leave a message. We will return your message and schedule a time for you to speak by phone with one of our attorneys or immigration counselors.

Housing
Please be advised that Housing Court has been closed since Tuesday, March 17th until further notice, except for emergencies such as illegal lockouts and emergency repairs. Please know that all evictions will be put on hold until further notice. If you are a Queens resident and have questions about evictions, rent or repair issues, please call (347) 472-3500 (Catholic Migration Services) or 311 (New York City help line).

For additional housing assistance, please contact:
Andrew Lehrer, Esq. – ext. 1026
Amy Collado, Tenant Organizer – ext. 1021
Ahren Lahvis, Paralegal – ext. 1027

Workers’ Rights
The Coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on workers. While our offices remain physically closed, Catholic Migration Services continues to provide critical legal services to low-wage and immigrant workers. In addition to providing advice and legal representation on general employment matters, such as wage theft, we are now also providing advice to workers directly impacted by this pandemic, including those with workplace health and safety concerns and those who have recently lost their jobs. Our hotline is open! To speak with an attorney, please call (877) 52-LABOR (52267) Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ¡Hablamos Español!

Events
The safety of our community is our priority at all times. As a result, Catholic Migration Services has suspended all events and outreach activities including our monthly community meetings at St. Sebastian Parish in Woodside. We encourage vulnerable individuals to exercise caution and stay safe. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this health emergency.

Additional Information
For additional updates, please regularly visit the organization website and social media channels:
www.catholicmigration.org
www.Facebook.com/CMSBQ
www.Twitter.com/CMSBQ
www.Instagram.com/CMSBQ

Download this update as a PDF.

Important Notice Regarding Office Closure on behalf of Catholic Migration Services Pertaining to COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

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Due to the evolving outbreak pertaining to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis, Catholic Migration Services is limiting office operations to reduce health risks to visitors, staff and volunteers. We understand that we assist clients with sensitive matters. Please be assured that our staff is making all necessary accommodations to proactively work with our community in a way that will not harm our clients. For the health and safety of all, please do not come to our offices unless instructed to do so by a staff member of Catholic Migration Services.

For New Clients
Please be advised that Catholic Migration Services has suspended all new client meetings indefinitely. This means that if you are currently scheduled to meet with a staff member for the first time to obtain legal assistance, please do not come to our office for your appointment. A staff member from Catholic Migration Services will contact all new clients about their individual situations and if we cannot assist you over the phone we will try to reschedule your appointment for a later date.

For Existing Clients
If you are an existing client with Catholic Migration Services and have a scheduled appointment, please do not come to our office unless instructed by one of our staff members. In the meantime, please try to call or email the staff member assisting you.

For Individuals Seeking Legal Assistance for the First Time
If you are not a client and are calling to make a new appointment, we are not currently scheduling new appointments. Please be sure to visit our website at www.catholicmigration.org for more information as it becomes available.

For Housing Clients
Please be advised that Housing Court will be closed beginning Tuesday, March 17th until further notice, except for emergencies such as illegal lockouts and emergency repairs. Please know that all evictions will be put on hold until further notice. If you are not a client and are a tenant seeking immediate legal assistance on housing matters, please call 311 for more information.

The safety of our community is our priority at all times. As a result, Catholic Migration Services has suspended all outreach activities including our monthly community meetings in Woodside and has also temporarily closed our Queens office located at 47-01 Queens Boulevard, Suite 203, Sunnyside, NY 11104 until further notice. We encourage vulnerable individuals to exercise caution and stay safe. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this health emergency.

For additional updates, please regularly visit the organization website and social media channels:

www.catholicmigration.org
www.Facebook.com/CMSBQ
www.Twitter.com/CMSBQ
www.Instagram.com/CMSBQ

Download this announcement as a PDF.

Immigration Update Pertaining to Recent Changes to the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (LRIFA) of 2019

On December 20, 2019 the United States Congress passed a new law as part of the Liberian Refugee Immigration Act (LRIFA) in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that allows certain Liberian nationals the opportunity to file for permanent residence in the United States. 

The deadline for eligible individuals to apply is December 20, 2020.

Who is Eligible to Apply?

Liberian nationals who have been “continuously present” in the United States from November 20, 2014 up to the date of submitting an application, or the spouses, children, unmarried sons or daughters of such a person.  Applicants must meet the following requirements in order to apply: 

  • Be a national of Liberia;
  • Be continuously physically present in the United States from November 20, 2014 to the date of the filing of their application (Note: this physical presence requirement does not apply to spouses, children, or unmarried sons or daughters of the principal applicant) ;
  • Be eligible for an immigrant visa; and
  • Be admissible to the United States for lawful permanent residence or eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or other form of relief.

A licensed immigration attorney or accredited immigration counselor can explain these eligibility requirements and whether you may be eligible to apply.

If you believe you may be eligible to apply for residency under this act, please contact Catholic Migration Services to schedule an appointment in Brooklyn at (718) 236-3000 or in Queens at (347) 472-3500.

Catholic Migration Services will continue to update information in the near future to reflect any further changes. All are encouraged to visit our website for future updates, training sessions and workshops.

Download this immigration update as a PDF.

Immigration Update Pertaining to Recent Changes in Federal Immigration Policy Regarding the “Public Charge” Rule

Presione aquí para la versión en Español
Peze la pou tradui nan Kreyol Ayisyen

Last month Catholic Migration Services notified the community of a potential change to the “Public Charge” rule that would have impacted who can enter the U.S. and who would have been eligible for a green card.

Catholic Migration Services would like to inform the immigrant community, that in a huge victory for our immigrant communities, on October 11, 2019 a U.S. District Court Judge in New York issued a nationwide injunction against the Trump administration’s “Public Charge” rule. This means that the new “Public Charge” rule, which was to go into effect on October 15, 2019, is now blocked from going forward. Additionally, this means that for now individuals applying for green cards and filing family based petitions are not currently affected by the new rule. It is almost certain that the legal fight will continue, but, for now, the rules applying to the “Public Charge” determination within the United States have not changed.

Catholic Migration Services will continue to update information in the near future to reflect any further changes. All are encouraged to visit our website for future updates, training sessions and workshops.

For Free Help
All immigrants who may apply for an immigration benefit in the future should seek advice about whether receipt of public benefits may impact their ability to apply for that future benefit. For free assistance, call the New Americans Hotline at 1 (800) 566-7636 between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call Catholic Migration Services Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at (718) 236-3000 or (347) 472-3500.

Download this immigration update as a PDF.