Public Charge Updates & Resources

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UPDATE: USCIS has announced that the new Public Charge rule will become effective starting February 24, 2020.

What is Public Charge?

The "public charge assessment" is used by immigration officials to decide whether a person can enter the country or apply to adjust his/her status to get a green card (permanent residency). This is used to determine whether an immigrant will be dependent on the government. A person could be deemed a public charge if they are likely to become primarily dependent on the government for support. Being considered a public charge is grounds for inadmissibility; meaning, an immigrant will not be allowed to enter or stay in the country for this reason.

Public Charge Rule Change

On August 14, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security made changes to the Public Charge rule, which would redefine the Public Charge assessment and expand the public benefits considered in the determination. The term 'Public Charge' has been redefined as an immigrant who is “more likely than not” to receive public benefits for more than 12 months within any three-year period. Receiving public benefits is just one of a variety of factors that will be used for immigration decisions. The immigration officer must also consider the "totality of circumstances" and review factors such as age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education and skills when making a public charge determination.

Benefits considered in the new public charge assessment include cash assistance programs like SSI, TANF and CalWORKs, or long-term care paid by the government only. The rule change adds the following public benefits:

  • Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (CalFresh)
  • Most forms of Medi-Cal (excluding emergency Medi-Cal, Medi-Cal for children under 21 years old, pregnant women and new mothers)
  • Public housing and Section 8 assistance
  • In-Home Supportive Services or IHSS (for those age 21 years old and above)

Certain groups are exempt from the public charge determination:

  • Refugees, Asylees, T visa holders, U visa holders, VAWA recipients and self-petitioners, Temporary Protected Status recipients, and Special Immigrant Juveniles;
  • Green card holders
  • Immigrants without legal status

What You Need to Know:

  • The rule does not apply to green card holders and those applying to become a US citizen.
  • The rule does not include WIC, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), subsidized school lunches, food banks, shelters, and other programs.
  • The rule does not change the eligibility for public benefit programs.
  • Use of public benefits by U.S. citizen children and other family members will not count against you.
  • Every situation is different. Please consult an immigration legal services agency or attorney if you have questions about your case.