Amid his impeachment probe, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation on Friday night requiring many future immigrant visa applicants to show they can afford health care, a move that could make it harder for poor migrants to enter the U.S.
The action, which is set to take effect from 3 November, would require applicants, including people with ties to family members in the U.S., to show they have health insurance or prove their financial ability to pay for medical care before being issued a visa that could lead to a green card.
The proclamation wouldn’t apply to noncitizen children of U.S. citizens. Refugees and immigrants who won asylum are also excluded from the new requirement.
The move marks the latest effort by President Trump to restrict immigrants’ ability to enter the U.S.
Trump has made cutting legal and illegal immigration a centrepiece of his presidency. The Trump administration said last month that it planned to allow only 18,000 refugees to resettle in the United States in the 2020 fiscal year, the lowest number in the history of the modern refugee program.
“While 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,” Trump said in the proclamation.
He said the suspension applied only to people seeking to enter the United States with an immigrant visa.
The document listed the types of insurance considered approved, such as employer-sponsored plans and the Medicare program for the elderly.
But it said for people over the age of 18, coverage under the Medicaid program for the poor is not approved.
The new requirement would take a further step, requiring anyone looking to move to the U.S. to enrol in private insurance — including as a dependent on a family member’s health plan — or possess the financial means to cover significant medical costs.
The proclamation also allows entry into the U.S. for migrants who have the “financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs, ” but it doesn’t define the threshold for meeting that standard.
Subsidised plans purchased on the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges wouldn’t count as an eligible form of insurance under the White House’s new definition.
Low-income immigrants living in the country legally can’t use Medicaid for their first five years, but they can receive premium subsidies if their incomes are low enough. Under the new White House policy, purchasing health insurance using subsidies would disqualify people from living in the country legally.
In its proclamation, the White House said it was taking the additional step to safeguard the health-care system for American citizens by preventing immigrants from enrolling in Medicaid or going to emergency rooms with no insurance, requiring hospitals or taxpayers to cover the cost.
“President Trump has taken action to promote immigrant self-sufficiency, which has long been a fundamental aspect of our immigration system,” the proclamation said.
The new requirement will apply to potentially hundreds of thousands of people moving to the U.S. each year on immigrant visas, which allow people to become permanent residents. In the 2018 fiscal year, the U.S. issued a total of roughly 534,000 visas, a 4.6% decline from the previous year’s total, according to State Department data.
Some of those visas, like those granted to noncitizen children of U.S. citizens, won’t need to comply with the new requirement.
The U.S. issues about 1.1 million green cards a year, but people issued immigrant visas often wait years in backlogs before they are granted permanent resident status.