Immigrants applying for US visas will be denied entry unless they can prove they can afford healthcare, the Trump administration has announced.

A proclamation signed on Friday by Donald Trump said the rule would apply to people seeking immigrant visas from abroad but will not affect lawful permanent residents, asylum seekers, refugees or children.

It will apply to spouses and parents of US citizens though, potentially impacting families who want to bring their parents to the US.

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Approved health insurance will include plans purchased individually or provided by an employer, as well as short-term coverage or “catastrophic” plans for emergency care.

However, Medicaid does not count and an immigrant will not be able to obtain a visa if they buy insurance using Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies, which are paid for by the federal government.

The move is the latest example of the Trump administration limiting immigrants’ access to public programmes.

Earlier this year, the administration made sweeping changes to make it harder for immigrants who use public benefits, such as food stamps and Medicaid, to obtain a green card and American citizenship.

The proclamation announced yesterday said immigrants would be barred from entering the country unless they are to be covered by health insurance within 30 days of their entry or have the financial resources to pay for any medical costs.

The ruling is set to become effective on 3 November.

Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation think tank, said that the move was a “classic catch-22” for low-income immigrants.

“They will need health insurance to be in the country legally [and] the only way they may be able to afford coverage is with ACA subsidies,” he told Politico.

“But, if they buy insurance with ACA subsidies, it won't count as insurance under the proclamation.”

The White House said in a statement that too many non-citizens were taking advantage of the country's “generous public health programmes”, and said immigrants contribute to the problem of “uncompensated healthcare costs”.

Doug Rand, a former Obama administration official who is the co-founder of the company Boundless Immigration, said the move was a “shameless” attempt to ban immigrants.

“This new attempt at an immigration ban is as shameless as it is stunning,” he tweeted.

“It will be chaotic to implement and guaranteed to separate US citizens from their legal immigrant spouses and other close relatives.”

According to the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan immigration think tank, 57 per cent of US immigrants had private health insurance in 2017, compared with 69 per cent of US-born citizens.

Thirty per cent had public health insurance coverage, compared with 36 per cent of US-born citizens.

The uninsured rate for immigrants dropped from 32 per cent to 20 per cent from 2013 to 2017, following the implementation of the ACA, according to the think tank.

On average, about 1.1 million people manage to obtain a green card each year.

Agencies contributed to this report

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