** LEGAL UPDATE **
IMPORTANT NOTE: The subject of the below update is in the midst of litigation, and the new rule described will thus not take effect upon the date planned, if ever. A U.S. federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking its implementation (in late November 2019), which hold will last until the lawsuit is finished and the ultimate result decided upon.
U.S. law has long prevented applicants from approval for immigrant visas (permanent residence or a green card) if they are likely to become a "public charge" (rely on need-based government assistance). With a recent Executive Order, however, President Trump has made the effect of that law much more severe, basically barring U.S. entry and residence to anyone without an immediate source of health insurance coverage.
Announced on Presidential Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry of Immigrants Who Will Financially Burden the United States Healthcare System states that certain immigrants who will "financially burden" the U.S. healthcare system are ineligible for immigrant visas and U.S. residence, unless they can show they will have a U.S.-government approved form of health insurance within 30 days of U.S. entry.
Before getting into the details, let's look at who is excluded from this proclamation. It is not meant to affect applicants for asylum, refugee status, withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against Torture.
It also appears to apply only to immigrants coming from abroad, as opposed to adjusting status within the U.S., through an office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
And the order specifically says that the following categories of applicants need not worry about proving they have health insurance:
For immigrants who must prove they will have health insurance, the approved sorts include:
Notice that Medicaid program is not on this list. It will be allowed only for minor immigrants, 18 years or younger. Also not on the list is subsidized coverage under the ACA, otherwise known as Obamacare.
For affected immigrants who cannot show sufficient coverage under an approved plan, the only alternative to visa denial is to show possession of sufficient financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs in the future.
If you are well into the process of applying for an immigrant visa, and think this could be an issue for you, your best hope is to do everything possible to keep the process moving along, such as gathering your documents and getting your consular interview scheduled. The order doesn't apply to anyone who has obtained a visa before its November effective date.
Also, this order came down with little warning, so expect bumps in the road before it becomes official procedure. At the moment, no forms have been created for its implementation, and no trainings have been held for consular officers.
On top of that, lawsuits seeking to block the order are all but inevitable.
Effective Date: November 3, 2019