Immigrants applying for visas to United States could be denied entry into the country, unless they can prove that they have health insurance or can cover their medical costs, according to a rule signed by US President Donald Trump on Friday.
The move is expected to impact some 23,000 Indians looking to immigrate to US.
The order will come into effect from November 3.
Move likely to impact thousands of Indians looking at immigration
According to Doug Rand, a White House immigration official during President Obama's regime, the new rule, once implemented, is likely to affect some 23,000 Indians, looking to immigrate to the US.
Notably, an estimated 35,000 family-sponsored immigrants from India go to US annually.
Out of this, nearly one-third are already in US when they apply for Green Card, while the rest arrive from India.
Immigrants shouldn't further saddle our health care system: White House
"The United States government is making the problem worse by admitting thousands of aliens who have not demonstrated any ability to pay for their health care costs," President Trump wrote under the proclamation.
"Immigrants who enter this country should not further saddle our health care system, and subsequently American taxpayers, with higher costs," the order further read.
"Large number of non-citizens took advantage of our health programs"
In an accompanying fact-sheet, the White House said that the order was intended to "ensure we protect the availability of health care benefits for American citizens."
It stated that immigrants are as much as three times more likely to lack health insurance than citizens.
"Large numbers of non-citizens have taken advantage of our country's generous public health programs," the White House further said.
Rule not applicable to asylum seekers, refugees or children
The new rule is applicable to immigrant visa applicants abroad, mainly those being sponsored by their immediate relatives, and not those already present in the US, such as H-1B visa holders.
It also applies to spouses and parents of US citizens.
However, the rule is not applicable to asylum seekers, refugees or children coming to the US.
What is an immigrant visa?
It should be noted that immigrant visas are different from temporary travel/tour or work visas. They are issued to foreign citizens who are sponsored by US citizens or other lawful permanent residents (Green Card holders), immediate relatives etc., and hold an approved petition before applying.
The move will be chaotic to implement, say critics
Meanwhile, critics of the administration said that these new "public charge" rules will make it difficult for anyone but rich, white immigrants from being granted citizenship.
"This new attempt at an immigration ban is as shameless as it is stunning," Rand said.
"It will be chaotic to implement and guaranteed to separate US citizens from their legal immigrant spouses and close relatives," he added.