Immigration attorney, Andres Mejer, answers 4 questions everyone in immigration is talking about.
Did you know that millions of tax paying immigrants won’t get stimulus payments? Why?
Mr. Mejer answers that question.
Are you wondering if you can get unemployment as an immigrant? He answers that question too.
(This transcript is not verbatim, we have modified it for readability)
In the video today we I will be covering four subjects.
- What you need to know about the public charge and the corona virus.
- Which immigrants can file for unemployment benefits without putting themselves at risk.
- What immigrant families will receive government money from the CARES Act regarding the corona virus
- USCIS is no longer requiring original signatures on forms during the pandemic
[00:00:40] I’ve spent weeks talking about the public charge because it completely changed everything in immigration, and not for the better.
How does that come into play in times of the corona virus?
Immigrants are eligible for many benefits, particularly during the corona virus pandemic.
Many immigrants are afraid to file for those for those benefits because of the Trump “public charge” rule.
The public charge rule is designed to make it harder for people of limited means to qualify for a visa or a Green Card. By limited means – I mean poor.
This fear puts people’s lives at risk.
Public charge rule is designed to make it harder for people of limited means i.e. poor to qualify for a visa or a Green Card.
My family came with nothing when they immigrated to the US. This new rule put people’s lives at risk.
People with green cards don’t need to worry about accepting government services due to the corona virus. You’re not disqualified.
The public charge rule focuses on people applying for a green card or foreigners outside the U.S. who want to come to the U.S.
If you’re outside the U.S., you can get whatever benefits that government gives you. You don’t need to worry.
The public charge rule also applies to non-immigrants seeking to extend or change their status.
Think of a tourist who wants to become a student or a student that wants to extend their stay in school hat just closed so that they would be subject to the public charge rule, but not as it relates the corona virus.
So to be clear, if you are a green card holder, you do not need to worry about triggering the public charge rule by using government services.
During the corona virus, receiving government support does not put you at risk for the public charge application to your financial situation.
USCIS has stated it will not consider testing treatment nor any preventative care like a vaccine if one becomes available for public charge purposes.
If you need to be tested and you’re not paying for it, the government’s paying for it, don’t worry about it.
If you test positive or you need treatment don’t worry about it.
If in the future there’s a vaccine and the government pays for it, don’t worry about it.
None of those situations will qualify as a public charge.
In other words, by virtue of getting that benefit, is it a benefit that’s encapsulated in the requirements for public charge? No. This is true even if you pay for the treatment through a benefit that would normally count against you like Medicaid.
Medicaid is a state and federal program that provides health coverage for low income individuals. Medicare is a federal program that provides health coverage based on age or disability. You have to be 65 years old or older. Nothing to do with your income. So we’re focused on for public charge purposes, Medicaid, not Medicare.
Being unemployed, however, could put you at risk for becoming a public charge.
Think of the public charge as a wealth test.
We had a question about people who are being detained if courts are not open.
[00:01:34] Say you, as an immigrant without a legal status, got caught by ICE tomorrow in Newark and would like to know, is the court still open? It’s not.
Court in Newark is closed until May 3rd.
Take a look at the video from two weeks ago where I spoke about four ways the Corona virus has impacted immigrants in their immigrant journey.
If you’re in removal proceedings, there’s a difference.
Check with the individual court. But if you’re detained, almost certainly the court is still going on.
If you’re not detained, meaning, not in jail – court right now is adjourned.
Back to Public Charge and how it might affect immigrants impacted by the corona virus.
Sadly, immigrants who are laid off due to the corona virus will be less financially secure and that could be a negative factor because they might also apply for government benefits.
[00:05:34] A simple fix would be to wait to apply until you have a job. Let’s assume that you manage a restaurant and the restaurant just closed for the corona virus.
[00:05:44] All employees are laid off.
That isn’t from anything you did. It’s the pandemic, right? A simple fix would be to wait to apply until after the pandemic.
If you apply for and receive government benefits – USCIS has advised that they will be very liberal for hardship caused by the Corona virus on the totality of the circumstances. (most immigrants don’t qualify for public assistance, if they don’t have legal they don’t qualify for government aid).
In other words, it’s a factor, but it’s not the only thing they will look at.
So if your Green Card application is being reviewed and the only thing negative is you lost your job to the corona virus USCIS is saying you’re not going to get disqualified for that reason and that reason alone.
There might be other factors. You should definitely talk to a qualified immigration attorney before filing.
Question number two, can immigrants file for unemployment benefits without putting themselves at risk?
First of all, we should talk about what unemployment benefits are.
Look at anybody who’s been around that’s been in working age in the past 12 years knows what it is, you know, 2008, 2009 and now the corona virus.
A lot of people in the past couple of weeks, what, 10, 15 million people have applied for unemployment benefits. Numbers we’ve never seen before. Unemployment benefits provide periodic (usually weekly) payments to eligible workers based on a percentage of their income for a specific time.
I know that’s generic, there’s 50 states, so there are 50 different variations of this.
Every state has a cap and you can only get it for a certain period of time, 13 weeks, you know, 13 weeks, 26 weeks. Forty two weeks. Whatever it is, it’s for a period of time. It’s not indefinite.
Immigrants (and anyone who applies) must be unemployed through no fault of their own. In other words, they didn’t quit or get fired for poor performance.
Number two, they must have enough wages earned or hours worked to establish a claim. Again, every state is different.
You either have to make enough or you have to have work enough weeks to be vested to receive the benefit. Now, if you got hired on Monday and you were let go because of the pandemic on Tuesday chances are you don’t qualify unless you already met that threshold from prior employment.
Three – you must be able and available to work. Basically, you can’t just sit back and say, I’m going to receive unemployment for 13 weeks.
If the employer that let you go, offered you work and you refuse, you will lose your unemployment benefits.
Receiving unemployment benefits is not considered receiving a public benefit. Why? Because unemployment is an earned benefit that workers pay into with their paycheck.
This includes Medicare and Social Security. Look at your pay check, assuming you’re again paid legally, right.
If you’re paid cash under the table, you’re not going to qualify for unemployment benefits anyway because there’s no record you were employed. That is a problem for certain undocumented immigrants. But a lot of immigrants work with a social or a fake social and they pay into the system.
[00:10:48] If it’s a fake social, they’re not going to qualify for any unemployment benefits, but you’re still paying into it and it’s still deducted from each check.
[00:11:00] Immigrants can receive most state unemployment benefits.
Eligibility depends on their immigration status in two different periods of time. First, immigrant must have had legal status when they applied and received the benefits. And second, immigrants must have had legal status when you perform the work.
So, let’s say I’m a DACA holder and I have work authorization. And I manage a restaurant using the example that I gave before and the restaurant now went out of business or they closed temporarily. Everybody is off. If you have work authorization as you’re applying for unemployment, you are eligible.
If your DACA or work authorization expired, you could have a problem.
During disasters like the corona virus, the federal government often approves additional unemployment benefits. These are considered federal public benefits and are available only to qualified immigrants.
Who would that be? Green Card holders. Refugees or people granted asylum or withholding of removal. People granted parole by DHS for at least one year. Cubans and Haitians voucher holders.
3 Which immigrant families will receive government money? So what are we talking about?
The CARE Act provides direct payments on a sliding scale of up to twelve hundred dollars per adult and child depending on income and immigration status.
So, if you make too much, you’re out.
If you make sufficient, but you don’t have the right immigration status, you’re not getting anything.
Only those with a Social Security number who have a green card or are resident aliens will qualify.
This includes, again, the list I made before –
green card holders,
refugee people granted asylum,
withholding of removal,
people granted parole,
U.N. visa recipients,
DACA holders (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)
And TPS or Temporary Protected Status.
Any of those qualify for the aid, but now we’re talking about the individual.
However, a family can still be disqualified.
In this case, let’s say I’m a green card holder or citizen who qualifies. But my spouse or my child don’t have a legal status. I got a problem. So how do they know? Well, they’re going to look at the taxes that you filed.
If you filed as a single individual, well, they’re not authorized.
It’s estimated there are sixteen point seven million people live in the US with at least one unauthorized family member.
While most unauthorized immigrants don’t have a valid Social Security number, many still pay federal, state and local income taxes by using an individual tax and application number.
An estimated 4.3 million adults and 3 and a half million children will be disqualified from direct payments, even though they regularly file their taxes and contribute to the tax base. I got to tell you guys, this is incredibly stupid here.
[00:15:05] Think about this. The whole point, the whole point of the Corona virus, the whole point of putting money in people’s pockets is to stimulate the economy.
[00:15:16] Right. Because people need to be able to pay their landlords. They need to be able to go and shop and buy food.
70 percent of our economy is built on consumption. That means we Americans and immigrants go and buy stuff.
[00:16:16] So if you have money to spend, you can’t go and spend it today. But the idea is to put money in your pocket.
[00:16:25] The spending then kick starts the economy. What difference does it make if someone’s legal or not? Money is money. We want them to have money to spend because that’s what makes the economy work. So to say you’re paying taxes, however you’re not going to receive this benefit because someone in your family is undocumented is absurd.
[00:17:05] Unfortunately, it obviously hurts the individual, but it hurts us collectively because it means that the benefit is that much less than otherwise could have been. But that is the law. It passed the Senate and it passed that the House. And it was signed by our president. So it is what it is now.
#4 [00:17:32] You no longer need to leave the comfort of your home to file for an immigrant benefit. No, I’m not talking about electronic filing, although there is some of that now. USCIS no longer requires an original signature on forms applied for during that pandemic. USCIS has said they will now accept copies of original signatures. That means photos, faxes, copies. But the documents must have been signed. So let’s say you file a work authorization form.
[00:18:07] You need to print it out and sign it. But, now, that signature page can be scanned. Copy. You don’t need to mail the original.
If you’re doing this at home for yourself, does it will make a difference? It doesn’t change you how you do. But if you are working with an attorney, you hired an attorney. You paid an attorney. You gave him or her the documents that they needed.
[00:18:29] Now you can’t meet with your attorney because the office is closed. They can’t get things from you. They can’t say things to you as easily as they used to. You can’t just go and drop off documents, you know, or you can. But in the limited circumstances now, you don’t need to do that, because now the attorney can email you the document. You could sign it. Take a copy. You know, take a photo on your phone and email that photo. And that is sufficient.
[00:19:00] You still need to keep the original in case it’s ever requested.
You may need it at the interview.
I guarantee you they will request the original at the interview. That is almost certain to happen.
We are doing consultations virtually.
You can retain us virtually and electronically.
We email or mail you the documents that we need. We prepare the petition. We review the petition with you virtually. You mail a list of documents – scanned or faxed the documents and we assemble them.
And now even the signature we can get without you coming into the office. So we could do everything we used to do only in office from the comfort of your home.
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