President Trump Issues Executive Order that Suspends Entry of Certain Immigrants Who Will Financially Burden the U.S. Healthcare System

On October 4, 2019, President Trump signed an executive order which bars entry into the United States of certain immigrants who “will financially burden the United States healthcare system.” As a result of the executive order, an applicant seeking to obtain an immigrant visa will need to demonstrate that he or she will have health insurance or the financial ability to pay for medical care prior to being issued an immigrant visa.

Specifically, the order explains that an alien will financially burden the United States healthcare system if he or she will not be covered by approved health insurance within 30 days of entry into the United States, or the alien does not possess the financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs.  The order further explains that “approved health insurance” means coverage under specified plans and programs including an employer-sponsored plan, an unsubsidized health plan offered in the individual market within a state, a family member’s plan, a medical plan under the Medicare program, or a visitors health insurance plan.  The order also notes that for those over the age of 18, approved health insurance does not include coverage under the Medicaid program.

The executive order explains that the new rule is necessary in order to protect the United States healthcare system and American taxpayers from “the burdens of uncompensated care.”  Specifically, the order states, “[w]hile our healthcare system grapples with the challenges caused by uncompensated care, the United States Government is making the problem worse by admitting thousands of aliens who have not demonstrated any ability to pay for their healthcare costs.  Notably, data show that lawful immigrants are about three times more likely than United States citizens to lack health insurance.” Moreover, the proclamation explains, “[c]ontinuing to allow entry into the United States of certain immigrants who lack health insurance or the demonstrated ability to pay for their healthcare would be detrimental to these interests.”

Under the proclamation which will become effective on November 3, 2019, consular officers will have the authority to deny immigrant visas for those applicants subject to the proclamation who cannot demonstrate to the officer that they will be covered by approved health insurance or that they have the financial resources to pay for future medical costs.  Of significant note, the proclamation does exempt certain immigrant visa applicants including applicants for Special Immigrant or Returning Resident visas, children of United States citizens, and refugees.  Additionally, those seeking to immigrate as parents of United States citizens are exempt provided that they can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the consular officer that their healthcare will not impose a substantial burden on the United States healthcare system.  The proclamation does not apply to applicants under the age of 18, except for those who are accompanying a parent who is also immigrating to the United States and is subject to the proclamation.  Moreover, the proclamation also carves out an exemption for “any alien whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives” or “whose entry would be in the national interest.”

It is important to note that this proclamation only applies to new immigrants seeking to enter the United States through consular processing.  As written, it does not apply to those seeking to obtain permanent residency through adjustment of status in the United States.  The rule also does not apply to those entering the United States on temporary visas such as  H-1B specialty occupation workers, international students, and tourists.

Certain immigration advocates view the executive order as one of the Trump Administration’s latest efforts to restrict legal immigration and argue that this new rule will simply make it more difficult for poor immigrants to enter the United States.  While it is uncertain exactly how implementation of this new rule will play out in practice, there is fear that thousands of applicants will be denied green cards if the executive order goes into effect.

Individuals that are interested in immigrating to the United States should speak with a knowledgeable immigration attorney to determine how this latest executive order may impact his or her immigration case.  For those with pending immigrant visa consular processing cases, it is important to retain competent immigration counsel familiar with the latest changes in immigration law and policy and who can offer sound advice in response to the upcoming changes.