Immigration2020-06-09T09:52:53-04:00

Immigration Resources

91% of the drivers for Black Car services in New York City were born in other countries. Drivers Benefits wants to make sure that drivers from immigrant backgrounds know the answers to some of the most basic questions pertaining to being an immigrant in New York during these difficult times. When it comes immigration, everyone’s situation is different, so we encourage everyone with questions to call one of these two numbers:

If you live in New York City, the free and confidential ActionNYC hotline is 800-354-0365, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with any further questions. We’ve heard that about 90% of the questions people ask will be able to be answered by a professional on the first call, but if the case is more complicated, the hot line will be able to connect you with a lawyer for free.

If you live outside of New York City, you can call the free and confidential New York State New Americans hotline at 800-566-7636 which provides a similar service.

Below is an interview with Nick Gulotta, the Director of Organizing and Outreach at the Mayor’s Office of Immigration Affairs. 

The interview touches on public charge, enrolling in government benefits like food stamps and Medicaid, and any other questions immigrant New Yorkers may have during COVID-19.

Don’t speak English? Read the pages we made for drivers in Español, 中文, and Français.

Disclaimer: This guide is not meant to constitute legal or professional advice. Please consult a lawyer for any legal advice.

Below we have a number of Frequently Asked Questions. We did not write any of these answers. These are all compiled from trustworthy resources. We have cited each answer for your reference. If you would like to see more resources for immigrant New Yorkers, we encourage you to go to the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigration Affairs resource page here.

“Public charge” is a ground of inadmissibility. Grounds of inadmissibility are reasons that a person could be denied a green card, visa, or admission into the United States. It is not a test that applies to everyone. In deciding whether to grant an applicant a green card or a visa, an immigration officer must decide whether that person is likely to become dependent on certain government benefits in the future, which would make them a “public charge.” 

Here are a few important points regarding public charge:

    • Public charge does not apply to all immigrants. This law mainly impacts those seeking permanent resident status through family member petitions.
    • In immigration law, public charge is a ground of “inadmissibility.” This law says that those who are viewed as likely to become dependent on the government in the future as a “public charge” are inadmissible. Grounds of inadmissibility only apply to those seeking entry at our borders or those applying for a green card (lawful permanent residence).
  • Many immigrant categories are exempt from the public charge ground of inadmissibility, even if they might be applying for status or a green card. U visa holders, T visa holders, asylees, refugees, and many more categories are exempt.
  • Public charge laws do not apply in the naturalization process, through which lawful permanent residents apply to become U.S. citizens. 

Source: Immigrant Legal Resource Center, “Public Charge”

The rule only applies to people applying for green cards on certain grounds and people seeking admission to the U.S. from abroad. 

The rule also affects requests to extend a non-immigrant visa or to change your non-immigrant status. An example of a request to extend a non-immigrant visa would be asking to stay longer on a visitor’s visa. An example of a request to change status would be asking to change from a student visa to an employment visa. Under the new rule, USCIS would not consider if you are more likely than not to be a public charge in the future. Instead, they will only look at whether you have gotten public benefits for more than 12 months in the 36-month period since you obtained nonimmigrant status.

Source: CT Law Help, “Frequently Asked Questions About the Public Charge Rule”

The public charge rule does not apply if

  • you are applying for citizenship;
  • you already have a green card (you’re already a Lawful Permanent Resident), unless you leave the country without permission for more than 180 days at one time and return;
  • you are renewing your green card;
  • you are replacing your lost or stolen green card;
  • you are a naturalized citizen;
  • you are applying for a green card based on an approved U Visa or T Visa;
  • you are applying for a green card based on an approved VAWA Self-Petition;
  • you are applying for a green card based on an approved Special Immigrant Juvenile Petition; or
  • you are a refugee or asylee.

If you are in one of these categories, you can use ANY benefits you qualify for, including cash aid, health care, food programs, and other non-cash programs. This has been true for both the prior rule and the current rule.

Source: CT Law Help, “Frequently Asked Questions About the Public Charge Rule”

“Getting care, treatment, or testing for COVID-19 will NOT make you a ‘public charge’ or hurt your ability to apply for a green card. Getting charity or discounted medical care will not hurt your ability to apply for a green card. There is no “public charge” test when green card holders apply for citizenship. Seek care without fear.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that treatment and preventive services for COVID-19 will not negatively impact the outcome for any person subject to the “public charge” test, even if the treatment and/or preventive services are provided or paid for by one or more public benefits considered under the “public charge” test. Visit the USCIS Public Charge page here to learn more.”

Source: New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigration Affairs, “Resources for Immigrant Communities During COVID-19” 

“Not all public services, programs or benefits are considered public benefits under the public charge” test. 

For example, the following services and programs are NOT considered “public benefits,” even for immigrants who are subject to the “public charge” test’:

  • Healthcare services and most health insurance except non-emergency Medicaid
  • While Medicaid is included, the following Medicaid benefits are excluded:
    • Emergency Medicaid
    • Services funded by Medicaid but provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
    • School-based services or benefits funded by Medicaid
    • Medicaid benefits received by children under the age of 21
    • Medicaid benefits received by a woman during pregnancy + 60 days
  • Many types of food assistance, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), food pantries, Grab and Go meals at school, and more (except SNAP)
  • Unemployment benefits

Source: New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigration Affairs, “Resources for Immigrant Communities During COVID-19” 

You should reach out to either ActionNYC hotline or New York State New Americans hotline. Both will provide professional guidance, and, if necessary, connect you with a lawyer for free. Every call is confidential. 

If you live in New York City, the ActionNYC hotline is 800-354-0365, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

If you live outside of New York City, you can call the free and confidential New York State New Americans hotline at 800-566-7636.

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