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  • Writer's pictureKatharine Speer Rosenthal

FAQ: COVID-19 treatment & government assistance for U.S. immigrants

Updated: Apr 8, 2020

Will COVID-19 treatment or a vaccine affect my immigration case?

USCIS announced that testing, treatment, and vaccines for COVID-19 will not negatively affect current or future immigration applications. This is true even if the testing, treatment, or vaccine is paid for by a government benefit, such as Medicaid.

The U.S. Department of State, which adjudicates visa applications for people outside the United States, has not yet said how it will weigh a COVID-19 diagnosis or treatment.

If anything, coronavirus-related care will be one factor among many that the visa officer will weigh before deciding an application. If you are concerned about your eligibility, you should consult with an immigration attorney well before your consular interview.

Can I apply for unemployment? Will it affect my immigration application?

Congress recently passed the CARES Act, which includes Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for self-employed workers and independent contractors, who were not previously eligible.

Workers without employment authorization, however, still do not qualify for unemployment assistance.

Unemployment is not a means-tested benefit, so receiving unemployment payments should not affect your current or future immigration application. USCIS’s public charge rule specifically excludes unemployment benefits from the list of public benefits that negatively affect a person’s application. The Department of State, however, has been silent on this issue.

As always, make sure you accurately report your U.S. immigration status on your unemployment application. Never falsely claim to be a U.S. citizen on a government benefit application.

If I get a direct payment from the government, will it affect my immigration application?

Congress approved direct payments to U.S. taxpayers to slow the economic impact of COVID-19. This payment is a tax credit, not a means-tested public benefit, so it will not affect your current or future immigration application.

The Washington Post has a good summary of this program, including a payment calculator.

Unfortunately, taxpayers who used an ITIN for anyone in their family do not qualify for a direct payment. This is true even if the wage earners are authorized to work. “Non-resident aliens” are also excluded.

There might be another law in the future that fills in some of the gaps and provides more assistance to non-citizens. If so, I will update this post.

For more details, check out this helpful resource from Protecting Immigrant Families.

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