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How will receiving government aid affect permanent residence eligibility?

I hold a conditional green card obtained through EB-5. We just arrived in this country and do not have jobs yet. Since we do not currently have income, the local government offered food stamps and Medicaid to my family. Is it OK to accept it? Will it have any effect on my obtaining an unconditional green card?

Answers

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    Julia Roussinova

    Immigration Attorney
    Answered on

    When you applied for immigrant visas abroad based on an approved I-526, one of the questions was whether you would become a public charge. You will also have the same issue when applying for naturalization. Means-tested benefits are for poor people who cannot support themselves and meet certain qualifications to apply for such benefits. Being EB-5 investors, you are more than likely not such qualified individuals. I would advise against accepting means-tested benefits. You can apply for jobs immediately or establish a business because you have no employment restrictions as conditional permanent residents.

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    A Olusanjo Omoniyi

    Immigration Attorney
    Answered on

    While you may qualify for the aids as a result of your current situation, it is not advisable to accept it. Public aids are meant for the poor. Being on public aids so soon upon entry means the family is now considered a public charge, a fact that has a negative connotation. As an investor of $500,000, the general perception is that by filing and obtaining EB-5 visas for your family, you are relatively well enough. Advisably, be on notice that the issue will be raised at the time your permanent green card is being processed.

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    Fredrick W Voigtmann

    Immigration Attorney
    Answered on

    Receiving federal means-tested benefits could affect your eligibility for immigration. You should not apply for or accept any benefits without first consulting with an experienced immigration attorney.

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    Charles Foster

    Immigration Attorney
    Answered on

    If you are a conditional permanent resident, you are entitled to receive funds in support through government programs that are earned that are not means-tested. It is possible that if you took food stamps and Medicaid based upon your lack of any income, initially you could be deemed a public charge and barred from adjusting your status. But since you are already a conditional permanent resident, while I do not recommend accepting same, any government support that is means-tested, it may not be an issue when you file your petition to remove conditions.

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    John J Downey

    Immigration Attorney
    Answered on

    I would be cautious about this. I suggest you seek the advice of an immigration attorney in your area. Medicaid and food stamps are federal programs - I would think as permanent residents you would be entitled, but better safe than sorry.

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    Bernard P Wolfsdorf

    Immigration Attorney
    Answered on

    I generally advise clients to avoid public benefits whenever possible as there is a general probation on persons who are public charges even if you collect legitimate benefits, and since you are conditional residents and million dollar investors, it would not be smart.

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    Jinhee Wilde

    Immigration Attorney
    Answered on

    Please note that government assistance/welfare assistance, such as food stamps, etc. are for those who are poor and cannot support themselves and need our government to help them eat and obtain necessary healthcare. Someone who had enough money to invest a minimum of $500,000 into the EB-5 program is obviously not someone who needs government assistance as you have that and more as assets. Also, as a conditional green card holder, you could apply for and get any employment for which you are qualified and could be hired. Thus, the fact that you currently have no employment should not be the only determination for receiving the government assistance. Lastly, one of the questions that you have answered when you were applying for the immigrant visa and will again when you apply for the citizenship is whether you have been a burden to the public system by accepting these welfare programs. While seemingly free money/a handout may be tempting, I would caution you on accepting the assistance.

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    Stephen Berman

    Immigration Attorney
    Answered on

    Those are needs-based public benefits, and could render one a "public charge." That is a basis to remove a person from the United States.

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