Stimulus Relief & the Public Charge Rule
The coronavirus relief bill that was initiated has far-reaching effects for many individuals. However, the effect on immigrants inside the US is uncertain. Foreigners are rightfully nervous about the various stimulus advantages, and how that might affect their immigration statuses and paths to citizenship.
Any person with a social security number may qualify to receive a $1,200 stimulus check. This could include those who are “non-resident” visa holders, as well as DACA recipients. Foreigners who have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) will not qualify for a stimulus check. In addition, if you have a SSN, but you also have a household member who has an ITIN, then you will not qualify for the stimulus check. Likewise, you will not qualify for a stimulus check if you have anyone in your household who is undocumented. This includes anyone reported on your tax returns.
Stimulus checks are an economic stimulus due to the coronavirus pandemic. As such, you will not be penalized for receiving a stimulus check when trying to meet public charge requirements for immigration purposes. This is due to the fact that that the checks are not welfare. The checks are an attempt to bolster the economy. They will not be included in the evaluation of whether or not someone will become a “Public Charge“.
Additionally, the USCIS acknowledges that the Public Charge rule could deter many immigrants from seeking health care. Therefore, they will not penalize you for seeking medical care due to COVID-19, even if it’s through Medicaid.
Small Business Owners
There are several aspects of the stimulus bill that could help small business owners. Two categories of federally funded loans have designed to aid in the recovery of the economy.
The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) is a loan available through the Small Business Association. The SBA has streamlined the application, and any small business owner can apply on their website. The EIDL is advantageous because it comes with a $10,000 grant which is should be accessible within days. The EIDL has a low-interest rate, but you will have to pay back the loan eventually.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a loan from the bank. There is potential for the bank to forgive the entirety of the PPP. This means that 75% of the loan must be used to pay employees, and the remaining 25% must be used for specific things as well, such as rent and utilities. If you meet these requirements, then you will not need to repay the loan. Any portion of the PPP that is not forgiven must be paid back.
Loans and Public Charge
If you acquire a loan and later seek to immigrate a foreign family member or help them obtain a green card, these loans should not prevent you from helping your family member obtain an immigrant relative visa or adjust status stateside. Also, these loans should not prevent a foreigner from obtaining an immigrant visa or stateside green card. It won’t count against an applicant as a public benefit. However, it could work against a foreign applicant to the extent that the foreigner has debt that must be repaid. To determine if an applicant will become a public charge, see forms I-944 and DS-5540. Debts are considered when determining the likelihood a foreigner will become a public charge.
The number of people applying for unemployment has skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic. Unemployment is insurance, not a welfare benefit. It will not count against an applicant. If an immigrant loses their job due to the coronavirus, they may receive unemployment as long as their visa is valid. At this time, there have not been extensions for foreigners who are here on temporary work visas, such as the H1-B visas.