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Can filing for unemployment affect my green card?

When the effects of the coronavirus pandemic hit, millions of people suddenly found themselves without jobs. While unemployment benefits are available for most, many immigrants wonder whether their status will be affected by applying.

NPR recently heard from several legal immigrant workers who have been working and paying taxes in the United States but fear that filing for unemployment could put their cases in jeopardy. Some of them were waiting for their first green card, while others were close to being citizens or having their residencies extended.

Concern over the public charge rule

Many immigrants fear that filing for unemployment will trigger a red flag with immigration services. Most of the concern arises from the Trump administration’s “public charge rule,” which makes it harder for immigrants to become permanent residents if it appears they need public assistance.

However, unemployment is insurance, not welfare. Benefits are paid for by employers and workers, not American taxpayers. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) told NPR that unemployment is an earned benefit and is not included in the public charge rule.

Perception remains a barrier for many immigrants

Despite assurances that filing for unemployment benefits will not subject them to increased scrutiny by the USCIS, many immigrants say they will not file for jobless benefits they have earned out of fear that their status could be affected.

Some have said they are willing to face economic hardship to avoid the perceived risk. If you face this uncertain future, an experienced immigration attorney can help you sort through the complicated system and receive the benefits you have earned.

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