The USCIS reports it will not penalize people who seek public benefits due to the Coronavirus.
With the Coronavirus spreading rapidly throughout the U.S., the Trump administration has felt pressure to address the new Public Charge policies. Recent policies have sought to discourage foreigners–those in the U.S. illegally but also those who are legal–from seeking medical assistance that they cannot pay for independently.
The Immigration Debate
Advocates of the policy assert that foreigners should pay their own way and otherwise be excluded from medical services. Allowing medical care for foreigners who do not fully pay for services encourages illegal immigration. Critics contend that excluding people from seeking medical care puts public health at risk. It also unnecessarily burdens Emergency Care rooms because people wait until their situation is dire before coming in for help. They get medical care in the end, so why be inclusive?
The USCIS Decision
That debate came to a head with the Coronavirus. The USCIS immigration agency has posted an alert on its website regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) stating:
USCIS encourages all those, including aliens, with symptoms that resemble Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (fever, cough, shortness of breath) to seek necessary medical treatment or preventive services. Such treatment or preventive services will not negatively affect any alien as part of a future Public Charge analysis.
This includes treatment, testing, and preventative care- such as a vaccine if one becomes available.
In addition, The USCIS will not penalize foreigners from seeking other public benefits for those who cannot attend work or school due to COVID-19. If you are in this situation, you must submit proper documentation and a statement with your application.
If you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19, it is important that you seek medical care and testing. The USCIS claims that this effort will not affect your ability to obtain immigration benefits in the future.