Record number of visa applicants turned away on ‘public charge’ grounds

By Doug Rand
The Trump administration is refusing a record number of visa applications based on its “public charge” policy, which redefines which would-be immigrants are “likely” to become dependent on government benefits in the future—significantly limiting the number of people allowed to immigrate to the United States.
New government data released yesterday (see below), and analyzed by Boundless, reveal for the first time that the State Department’s public charge policy change (first published in January 2018) is having a major impact on green card applicants abroad.
As a former White House official who worked on immigration policy, I can provide in-depth background on this trend and its likely impact:
• Over 13,000 green card applicants were initially refused on public charge grounds in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018.
• This is a four-fold increase over FY2017, before the State Dept. pubic charge policy officially went into effect.
• Moreover, this is a 15-fold increase over FY2015.
• In the 5 years prior to the Trump administration, effectively all public charge refusals were ultimately “overcome” in subsequent (and presumably successful) applications.
In effect, the State Department’s policy is creating a new barrier to legal immigration, in direct contradiction to the president’s State of the Union claim that he wants legal immigrants in “the largest numbers ever.”
The Department of State processes some 13 million visa and green card applications each year at U.S. consulates and embassies all over the world, and has been applying a tougher “public charge” test since January 2018. Consular offices have been instructed to reject applicants if they are deemed too poor, old, or unhealthy. The city of Baltimore recently sued the State Department to block this policy.
Note that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is working on its own “public charge rule,” which has received more media attention but has not yet been enacted. The DHS rule would apply to green card and temporary visa applications filed within the United States, not from abroad.

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