Income Test Under Trump Proposal Places Tougher Hurdles For Families To Get Green Cards

The Trump Administration’s proposal to make it more difficult for people to legally come to the U.S. or to stay here could keep apart hundreds of thousands of married couples who don’t earn enough money.

The Administration wants to create an income test for people wanting to legally enter the U.S. or become legal residents.  He wants to raise the income requirement 150%.

That test would generally give high marks to people with household incomes of more than 250 percent of poverty, about $41,150 for two people and $62,750 for a family of four.

This is unreasonable.

The proposal sets a minimum income of 125 percent of poverty – $20,575 for a household of two and $31,375 for four – consideration of whether they could become dependent on public benefits, but the rule considers household earnings of at least 250 percent of  poverty to be a “heavily weighted positive factor.”

The income benchmark is part of the Administration’s larger proposal to change how the government determines whether immigrants will become a “public charge,” a term used to mean someone dependent on tax-supported public assistance.

A Game Changer:  “A Public Charge”

The Administration released its proposed public charge rule last month and it was published on Wednesday in the Federal Register.  Because it is a regulation.  Congress was not involved in drafting it.

For example, if a company that uses technology to guide customers through the immigration process applied the income test to its database of about 600 clients, 53 percent would fail the test.

Applying that result to the about 400,000 Green Cards that the government issues to spouses of U.S. citizens and legal residents would mean some 200,000 couples could not be together based on their incomes.

This public charge (rule) could dramatically reduce the number of spouses, parents and children of American citizens that are allowed to live in the United states as well as the spouses and children of legal residents.

The Department of Homeland Security mentioned the income threshold on a Frequently Asked Questions document on the public charge proposal under the question, “What factors would weigh heavily against a determination that an alien is likely to become a public charge?”

The Cuccinelli (Pinocchio­) response:

The “alien has assets, resources and support of at least 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for a household of the alien’s household size,” and “The alien is authorized to work and is currently employed with an annual income of at least 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for a household of the alien’s household size.”

NBC News requested comment from DHS on the issue, but the Agency did not provide any beyond a copy of the FAQ document.

The planned changes to the public charge rule also could affect families and children – some who are U.S. citizens – who use safety net programs such as food stamps and Medicaid benefits.  DHS, which wrote the rule, has left it to the Justice Department to draft regulations on whether to deport people whose use of public benefits make them ineligible for legal permanent residency.

The State Department already has made some revisions to guidelines for consular officers who process applications submitted from abroad and must consider whether a person will become a public charge.  It is expected that State Department could further incorporate the DHS rule once the rule is final.

CNN reported that the income test also could impact people who do not use public benefits and are in lower to middle-income jobs.


The Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan immigration think tank, found that 2.3 million of 4 million or 56 percent of non-citizens who were legally present in the U.S. and arrived in the country over the past five years lived in families with incomes below 250 percent of the poverty level.

For additional information, contact:


American Immigration Attorneys, PLLC

(386) 585-4384

We Can Help!

1 Florida Park Dr. Suite 314
Palm Coast, FL 32137
Phone: (386) 585-4384
Monday-Friday: 10am-3pm
Seeing clients strictly by appointment
Saturday-Sunday: Closed
footer contact form