COVID-19 Won’t Impact Your Green Card


COVID-19 has certainly given people a lot to be anxious over, but your green card application doesn’t have to be one of them. USCIS put out a statement which said that immigrants who get tested or treated for COVID-19 will not be penalized and should feel free to seek out medical treatment.

This is despite Trump’s public charge rule, which received the green light from the Supreme Court and took effect on February 24, 2020. In fact, the rule seems to be suspended in COVID-19 cases. The purpose may be to protect public health by removing barriers to seeking care.

The amnesty includes testing, preventative care, and seeking care for the virus itself.

What about public charge?

The amnesty applies to other benefits. According to The New York Post: “Immigrants who can’t work or attend school and must use public benefits during the virus outbreak and recovery will be given a chance to explain and provide documentation later.” This includes taking advantage of SNAP benefits and Section 8 benefits.

Save documentation such as layoff letters, pink slips, medical records to help you explain and prove your case later if you feel this does or could apply to you in the future.

Keep in mind that many immigration categories are exempt from the public charge law in the first place. It impacts people seeking permanent residency status through family member petitions more than any other category. It also applies to people who are seeking entry at the borders. U-visa holders, T-visa holders, immigrants who are granted asylum, refugees, and many other categories are exempt from this law. They also do not apply to the naturalization process.

The rules never applied to taking advantage of benefits for a short period of time, but rather to people who were likely to receive them for 12 months in any 36 month period. Taking SNAP to tide you over for 4 months while seeking new employment wouldn’t have created problems under the new rule to begin with, though being ready to document and explain is always a good idea.

Immigration officers could also consider other factors like your education, English proficiency, and other factors which could make a positive impact on your ability to become self-sufficient. Public charge is a grounds for denial but does not trigger automatic denial.

In addition, applications received prior to February 23, 2020 are adjudicated according to the prior rules, not to the new rule.

Where can I find care?

If you are undocumented and are looking for a place to go where you will not be reported then you should look to community health centers, which are often safe spaces and which generally do not ask about immigration status before offering treatment. 

If you were already following the legal immigration process you should be able to seek care at any medical facility in the United States that would take any other patient.


A global pandemic is a scary time and injects uncertainty into everything, including immigration. If you have legal questions or concerns about your immigration status or application consider calling Hykel Law for help.

See also:

How to Get a Visitor’s Visa Extension

New Laws for Green Card Holders in 2020

How to Get a Green Card for Your Fiancee

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