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CARES Act Stimulus Payments and Unemployment Benefits Do Not Implicate Public Charge Rule

21 Apr

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act provides for economic impact payments, or stimulus payments, as well as unemployment benefits for U.S. taxpayers, which includes lawful permanent residents and certain individuals in nonimmigrant status. 

The recently implemented Public Charge Rule provides for an expanded ground of inadmissibility based on receipt of certain public benefits, but the Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently released a report confirming that receipt of economic impact payments or unemployment benefits should not be factored into this public charge determination. The CRS is a federal legislative branch agency providing nonpartisan research and analysis to the U.S. Congress.  

This analysis is consistent with the guidance of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Policy Manual.  According to Chapter 10 of the USCIS Policy Manual, USCIS considers for purposes of the public charge determination “any other federal, state, and local tribal cash assistance for income maintenance (other than tax credits).”  Although the stimulus payments would appear to be “cash assistance for income maintenance,” the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) considers these economic impact payments to be tax credits and therefore excluded from public charge consideration.  Additionally, the USCIS Policy Manual specifically excludes “unemployment benefits” from the public charge determination. 

Although receipt of unemployment benefits may not implicate the Public Charge Rule, application for and receipt of unemployment benefits may evidence or otherwise require conduct which impacts U.S. immigration status and compliance for nonimmigrant visa holders. Unemployment insurance programs are administered by the individual states and are subject to individual interpretations of program requirements. Generally speaking, most states require applicants to be immediately able and available for work in any suitable full-time employment opportunity.  Because most work visa holders are only authorized to work for the specific petitioning employer that terminated their employment, typically they are unable to meet these prerequisites for qualifying for unemployment benefits.

Although receipt of stimulus payments should not impact the Public Charge Rule, nonimmigrant visa holders are recommended to consult with a Foster immigration attorney before applying for unemployment benefits. 

Foster will continue to monitor developments associated with the CARES Act and will make future updates available in Immigration Updates© and on our Firm’s website at