Fri | Jul 3, 2020

Immigration Corner - Applying with HIV

Published:Tuesday | November 11, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Columnist

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

My husband is in Mexico currently awaiting his United States (US) immigration interview. We applied under the I-601 Provisional Waiver. They found out he is HIV positive during the medical exam because he revealed he could not receive live culture vaccines. They told him they require a 'TB sputum' test for anyone who is HIV positive, and it takes 10 weeks to receive the results. He is waiting there now, and his interview has been rescheduled for mid-December. My husband is very healthy. He has been receiving treatment since his diagnosis, and the virus is currently at an undetectable level. His employer did not offer health insurance because it was a very small company, so we found help to afford his medication through the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, and Ryan White Services in Indiana, our home state.

I know in the interview, since they know he is HIV positive, they will ask him how he will pay for his treatment and prescriptions. His medication costs US$2,200 per month. My question is: How does the interviewing officer determine if you will be a burden on the government? Our plan is that my husband will find a job that offers health insurance and be covered, or I can add him to my employer-based health coverage. What evidence will we need to prove he will not be a burden on the government upon his return to the US? How can I find out if the AIDS Drug Assistance Program and Ryan White would constitute as government agencies? I don't want that to ruin his chances of returning home to me.

- JH

Dear JH,

HIV is considered a chronic disease as it requires constant treatment at a high financial cost. The US embassy is going to require that your husband provide proof of insurance or that your income or that of a joint sponsor is significantly higher than the guidelines used by US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) to cover the cost of treatment.

Once a person is sponsored for a green card, the sponsor and/or the joint sponsor is obligated to support the immigrant until they become a US citizen or has worked for 10 years. The immigrant is not eligible for 'means tested benefits'. This means that your income and/or that of the sponsor would be imputed to your husband when applying for any benefit that is based on income. If, per chance, he should receive a benefit that is considered means tested and his file is later reviewed, you and/or the joint sponsor would be required to reimburse the funds spent on his account.

Health insurance

You should contact the agencies that are currently assisting your husband with his HIV medications regarding how he qualifies(d) for the benefit, and also your employer about how to add him to your health insurance plan. You should also explore purchasing health insurance for your husband through the Affordable Care Plan (aka Obamacare) to ensure that he will have coverage.

Failure to satisfy the US embassy in Mexico that your husband will not become a public charge (burden on the US government) will result in the denial of his immigrant visa. You must do your homework now and provide the information to your husband to take to his interview in December.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and personal injury law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida; and an adjunct professor at Miami Dade College's School of Justice. Email