What you should know about the new US immigration policy

HOUSTON – The U.S. legal immigration system will change in dramatic ways in October, the Trump administration announced Monday.

Who will be affected and when?

Immigrants who enter the country legally and then apply to become legal permanent residents will be affected by the new changes.

The 837-page document explaining the new rules was made public Monday. It will go into effect in mid-October. You can read the document here.

What are the new changes?

The changes replace a 1999 law defining criteria U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials use to decide which immigrants qualify for green cards.

The criteria will be expanded to include restrictions on using public assistance including food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing.

Other factors are also considered for the first time including credit scores, debt and English proficiency, among other things.

Are there exceptions to the new rules?

The new rules will not apply to certain military service members and their spouses, pregnant women and new mothers for a certain time after the birth of the child, children younger than 21, refugees and asylum seekers.

The rules are not retroactive. They will only affect applications on or after the day the new rules go into effect.

Do the new rules target poorer immigrants?

The government says the rules are designed to favor immigrants who are self-sufficient and won’t be a “drain on society.” Critics say they favor wealthy immigrants and exclude poorer ones.

'The invisible wall'

Houston immigration attorney Brandon Broche said the new rules will act like an “invisible wall” that will have a “chilling effect” on immigrants.

The Trump administration predicted the rules will directly affect around 400,000 immigrants per year.

“There are a lot of people out there going the legal route,” Roche said. “This is adding a lot more barriers to that process.”

Roche said on average, an application for a Green Card in Houston without complications takes a year to a year and a half.

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