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The Statue of Liberty stands tall in New York Bay, a beacon to immigrants worldwide
Q: My wife and I will soon get our green cards. Will we qualify for Obamacare? My wife and I are Canadian citizens. We have a winter home in Florida and hope to move there permanently soon. Our son is now a U.S. citizen, after having been a U.S. permanent resident for 12 years. He will be sponsoring us to immigrate to the United States. We can’t seem to find a definitive answer about whether we will qualify under the new program. Garry, Fla.
A: You will qualify for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, what you call “Obamacare,” once you become a permanent resident. If you cannot afford the insurance premiums, you will qualify for a federal subsidy. Open enrollment for Obamacare health insurance begins on Oct. 1. Permanent residents and others lawfully in the United States beginning on that date who don’t have other health insurance, can purchase it.
In fact, as a permanent resident, you are subject to the individual mandate requiring that you have health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty. You can get insurance coverage through a job, a public program such as Medicare or Medicaid or an individual policy that you purchase.
In many states, including Florida, you will not qualify for full Medicaid until you have been a permanent resident for five years. In New York state, all permanent residents who meet the income qualifications can get Medicaid. You can get more information about Obamacare at http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare.
Q: I came to the United States on an F-1 student visa but I am now out-of-status. My foreign passport is still valid. Is it safe for me to travel by air from Texas to Arizona using my passport as identifications? Sean, Texas
A: Traveling within the United States is not without risk for undocumented immigrants, but thousands do it every day without getting into trouble. It is very rare for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to discover an undocumented immigrant because he or she is traveling by plane within the United States.
Neither the airlines nor federal inspectors check a domestic airline passenger’s immigration status.
If you were to get caught by federal authorities, it would likely be because something happened on the plane or airport that caused the authorities to interrogate all passengers.
In the unlikely event that you were to encounter an ICE agent, you would be good candidate for President Obama’s prosecutorial discretion program. That program discourages immigration from beginning removal (deportation) proceedings against undocumented immigrants who have not committed crimes.
On Sept. 9, USCIS started its Customer Identity Verification program. Each time an individual comes to a USCIS office for an interview or to pick up a document, he or she will have two fingerprints scanned and a photo taken.
This is in addition to any biometric check you may have gone through to apply for a benefit. Infopass customers, that is, individuals coming just to get information about their case, and individuals accompanying customers, are exempt from the biometric check.
Allan Wernick is an attorney and director of the City University of New York’s Citizenship Now! project. Email Allan Wernick at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @awernick.