Public Charge Updates & Resources

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UPDATE: Federal judges have temporarily blocked the Public Charge rule change. This rule change has not taken effect.

What is Public Charge?

The "public charge assessment" is used by immigration officials to decide whether a person can enter the US or get a green card. This is used to determine whether an immigrant will be dependent on the government. Receiving government benefits is just one of a variety of factors used for immigration decisions.

A person could be deemed a public charge if they are likely to become primarily dependent on the government for support. Primary dependence refers to the reliance on cash assistance programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), TANF and CalWORKs, or long-term care at the government’s expense.

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. 

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

Benefits currently considered in the Public Charge assessment include cash assistance programs like SSI, TANF and CalWORKs, or long-term care paid by the government. The final rule would broaden the benefits subject to Public Charge consideration to include: 

  • Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (CalFresh)
  • Most forms of Medi-Cal (except for emergency services, 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)

Federal Judges Have Temporarily Blocked the Public Charge Rule Change


The final rule change was scheduled to take effect on October 15, 2019, however, the rule has not taken effect. Federal courts have temporarily blocked the final rule from being implemented. Click on this NPR article to learn more.


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.

Resources