US President Donald Trump’s administration is introducing a new rule which will prevent the country’s poorest legal immigrants from gaining permanent residency.
The rule will reject those applying for a change in immigration status if they fail to meet income standards or receive benefits such as welfare, food stamps, public housing or Medicaid.
In what is expected to be the most drastic of the president’s anti-immigration policies, more than half of all family-based green card applicants would be denied, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
Family-based green cards allow close relatives of US citizens and current green card holders to apply for their own green cards and allow them to qualify for US citizenship after three or five years.
The policy, which has been pushed by Mr Trump’s anti-immigration aide Stephen Miller, will take effect in mid-October.
It will ensure that immigrants are “self-sufficient” and “do not depend on public resources to meet their needs”, a notice published in the Federal Register said.
Applicants now need higher incomes to get a visa and the list of government benefits that would disqualify applications has hugely expanded.
Many of those likely to be affected are the 22 million legal residents living in the US who do not have citizenship, as well as those applying for visa extensions or green cards.
It will not affect refugees or asylum seekers, and pregnant women and children under the age of 21 are also exempt.
Immigrants who are already permanent US residents are unlikely to be affected.
In 2016, some 800,000 green cards were granted.
The White House said the current system favours those with family ties instead of those who “are self-sufficient and do not strain our public resources”.
Campaigners say the plan is part of an effort to bypass Congress to cut legal immigration.
The policy is expected to save federal and state governments an estimated $2.47bn (£2bn) a year due to immigrants opting out of state benefits.
A statement on the White House website said: “Large numbers of non-citizens and their families have taken advantage of our generous public benefits, limited resources that could otherwise go to vulnerable Americans.”
Source: SKY NEWS