Q: Will living in a government subsidized housing affect my change of status from non-immigrant to immigrant in the future?
I came to the US from Nigeria in August 2017 to do my PhD with F1 visa. The program is for four years. My family (Wife, 3 yrs old daughter and 1 yr old son) joined me in August 2018 with F2 visas. Our only income is the stipend I receive working as a graduate assistant in my department. More than half of the stipend goes into rent and there's little left for family upkeep and this has compelled me to start looking at subsidized housing. There are a good number of them in the city we live in (Richmond, VA). I do make my visa status clear to the property management and they would say that I am welcome to apply. People graduating from my program usually get a placement in academia and within 12-18 months, they get a permanent residency status. I am hoping to follow this same trail but I want to be sure that if I go ahead and live in a in a subsidized house that it won't be an obstacle in the future for a change of status, so I thought to ask an immigration attorney. Thank you!
A: While in the past use of subsidized or section 8 housing has not necessarily been considered in making a public charge determination, the Department of Homeland Security recently published proposed rules to expand the types of assistance that would be considered in a public charge determination. That list would include public housing and section 8 housing. If you are found to be a public charge, then it can result in a denial of your green card. Since none of us can predict the future and since the government has made it plain that it intends to make it easier for them to consider certain immigrants as a public charge, I would recommend that you do not take subsidized housing as it may jeopardize your immigration position in the future. I would also recommend that you speak with the public housing administrator in your state and make an appointment with an experienced immigration attorney.
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