Saturday, June 22, 2024

USCIS says Coronavirus testing won’t count against immigrants trying to get green cards

When immigration officials rolled out their “public charge” rule last month, people who were sick were deemed a “burden” to the U.S. and their health conditions were counted against them when applying for a green card.

Late Friday, however, part of that changed— at least when it comes to coronavirus, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services announced (USCIS). Any immigrant who gets tested or treated for the virus will not be negatively impacted.

“USCIS encourages all those, including aliens, with symptoms that resemble coronavirus (COVID-19) (fever, cough, shortness of breath) to seek necessary medical treatment or preventive services,” the agency said in a statement. “Such treatment or preventive services will not negatively affect any alien as part of a future public charge analysis.”

The agency continued: “To address the possibility that some aliens impacted by COVID-19 may be hesitant to seek necessary medical treatment or preventive services, USCIS will neither consider testing, treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19 as part of a public charge inadmissibility determination, nor as related to the public benefit condition applicable to certain nonimmigrants seeking an extension of stay or change of status, even if such treatment is provided or paid for by one or more public benefits, as defined in the rule (e.g. federally funded Medicaid).”

Fear among immigrant communities nationwide to get tested for the virus if symptoms developed has been rampant, advocates say. People in line for green card considerations have worried that if contracting the virus and seeking treatment for it would impact their chances of getting their permanent residency in the U.S.

“If people are afraid to go to a hospital or to respond to requests from public health officials, then they — and all of us — are at much greater risk,” said Amy Kapczynski, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union and a professor of law at Yale Law School. “We need to protect our communities by enabling everyone to seek care and to help in the response.”