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New rule would disqualify half of immigrants who apply for a visa in the US

The government of the United States announced on Monday a new rule that could deny permanent residence to hundreds of thousands of people because they are too poor.

United States of America passport

Passport of the United States of America / Reference image / Pixabay

Reuters | Daniel Trotta

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Leer en español: Nueva regla descalificaría a la mitad de los inmigrantes que solicitan visa en EEUU

The rule promoted by Stephen Miller, President Donald Trump's principal anti-immigration adviser, will take effect in mid-October and would allow applicants to refuse temporary or permanent visas for failing to meet income standards or for receiving social assistance, food stamps, public housing or Medicaid.

A change of that kind would ensure that immigrants "are self-sufficient" by not needing "public resources to meet their needs" as they will depend "on their own abilities, as well as on the resources of family members, sponsors, and private organizations," according to a publication in the Federal Register.

This would be the strongest immigration measure from the Trump administration, experts say. Human rights groups have criticized the plan as an effort to reduce legal immigration without going through Congress to change the law.

Under the new rules, more than half of the green card applications would be denied, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a research center. In 2016 some 800,000 cards were awarded.

The new rule derives from the Immigration Act of 1882, which allows the government to deny a visa to anyone who can become a "public charge." In recent years, immigration officials have defined visa applicants as a public charge if they are likely to rely primarily on assistance.

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Most non-resident immigrants are not eligible for major assistance programs until they obtain residence cards, but the new rule published by the Department of Homeland Security extends the definition of a public charge that disqualifies more people.

Applicants must now show higher income levels to obtain a visa, and the rule greatly expands the list of government benefits that would disqualify them from obtaining residency in the United States.

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