Immigrants often choose to live in New York so they can receive necessary medical care. However, sometimes a person’s visa may be set to expire before he or she can complete necessary treatment for a serious illness. These individuals can apply for medical deferrals, which would allow them to stay in the United States to complete their treatment plans. Although many of these requests were routinely approved in the past, it seems as if they are now being denied more frequently because of a change to immigration policy.
If approved, the medical deferred action program lets immigrants stay in the country for an additional two years if they require treatment because of an extreme medical need. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service — USCIS — used to be in charge of reviewing medical deferral requests, but that job was recently taken over by a different agency. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — ICE — is the agency that is now in charge of making decisions for this program.
People who recently applied for medical deferrals say they were not notified about the policy change. These individuals only found out after receiving letters of denial, even though many expected their requests to be approved. Since taking over the decision-making process, ICE has apparently issued far more denials than when USCIS was reviewing the requests.
For New York immigrants living with cancer, HIV and other severe illnesses, continuity of care is extremely important. The medical deferral program is supposed to be an opportunity for these patients to continue receiving essential, life-saving treatment. With this recent change to immigration policy, it is a good idea to consider speaking with an experienced attorney about applying to the program.