Non U.S. citizens living in the United States are sometimes unsure of their rights when it comes to applying for and receiving public aid assistance. Part of the uncertainty comes from a fear that if a non U.S. citizen accepts public aid, it could affect the person’s chances at adjusting status later on and applying for citizenship. Others also fear being labeled a burden on the U.S. government.
When people talk about public assistance, they are usually referring to food assistance through either Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, which is also referred to as food stamps); public housing; and, medical insurance through the Medicaid program.
Not every non U.S. citizen living in the United States qualifies for public assistance. For example, undocumented immigrants are generally not eligible to receive public assistance. Immigrants who are in the United States on temporary visas, such as student visas or tourist visas, are also not eligible for assistance. Non U.S. citizens who hold these temporary visas should not accept public aid, even if it is offered by an organization. It could lead to a revocation of their visas.
U.S. citizen children of undocumented immigrants may be eligible for benefits even if their parents are not. When this happens, the parents may later be penalized for accepting public aid on behalf of their children if the parents try and legalize their status. Accepting public aid is seen as the parent’s inability to financially provide for the children.
In some states there are special programs that do allow public assistance for undocumented immigrants in certain cases. For example in California, undocumented immigrants under the age of nineteen are eligible for medical care under California’s full-scope Medi-Cal program. Under such programs, undocumented children can receive full medical care, and not just emergency medical care as it was in the past.
Legal permanent residents, immigrants who have been granted asylum, or others who have immigrant visas to the United States are generally eligible to receive aid regardless of age if they meet the other economic factors. Public aid programs usually cut off eligibility based on household size and income.
Recent media reporting on proposed rule changes that seek to change immigration in the United States have indicated that under the proposed system, immigrants currently in the United States who receive public assistance would be targeted for deportation. Because these changes are not yet law, if a non U.S. citizen qualifies for public aid and needs it because of financial hardship, he or she should still be able to apply for the assistance. However, it may be wise to consult an attorney as to the implications of the application, especially since there is some uncertainty now as to how that application may affect the person’s chances of permanent status later on.
Contact Us for Legal Assistance
For more information on what benefits you may be entitled to as an immigrant living in the United States, and how applying for those benefits can affect you later, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.