Public Charge Rule FAQs

Page updated on Oct 31, 2019 at 12:46 PM

NOTE: On October 11, 2019, three different federal courts issued preliminary injunctions blocking the final Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rule (commonly known as the new “public charge rule”) from taking effect on October 15. The rule is temporarily suspended nationwide, pending further adjudication in the courts. 


On August 14, 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published a new “public charge” rule, to be effective October 15, 2019, that changes how U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services determines that an immigrant is likely to become a public charge (i.e., become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence). Public charge is used by immigration officials to help determine whether to approve or deny an individual’s application for a visa, legal permanent resident status (i.e., a green card) or a change in status. Below are a series of FAQs related to the new rule.

The information below is not legal advice. For information about a specific case, please contact an immigration expert. To find help in your area, visit www.immigrationadvocates.org/nonprofit/legaldirectory.


Public Charge Rule FAQs 

Key Facts

What is the new rule?

When does it go into effect?

Does the new rule apply to green card holders?

What other immigrant groups are exempt from the rule?

What social services are not included in the new rule?

Sources and Resources


Key Facts

  • The rule applies to those applying to be a lawful permanent resident (i.e., green card applicants), those applying for admission into the United States and those within the United States who hold a nonimmigrant visa and seek to extend their stay in the same classification or change their status to a different nonimmigrant status (i.e., temporary visa holders and applicants).
  • This new rule does not apply to all immigrants. This rule does not apply in the naturalization process, through which lawful permanent residents (i.e., green card holders) apply to become U.S. citizens. It does not affect applications for U.S. Citizenship or green card renewal. However, green card holders planning to leave the country for extended period of time should consult an immigration attorney as it may affect reentry.

   

What is the new rule?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security published a new “public charge” rule effective October 15, 2019, that changes how the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines that an immigrant likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence. 

Public charge is used by immigration officials to help determine whether a person can enter the United States or receive a green card and gain status as a legal permanent resident. Under this test, several factors are reviewed, including whether a person has received benefit programs of cash assistance or health care. (Source: Virginia Department of Social Services)

Effective October 15, 2019, the immigration officials will look more closely at those factors, including English language skills and whether additional benefits programs were received, including:

  • Any federal, state, local, or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Federal, state or local cash benefit programs for income maintenance (often called “General Assistance” in the state context, but which may exist under other names)  
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or formerly called “Food Stamps”) 
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program 
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation)  
  • Public Housing under section 9 the Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C. 1437 et seq. 
  • Federally funded Medicaid (with certain exclusions) 

Read the full Final Rule on Public Charge, including additional factors that will be weighed by USCIS as they assess applications.

If you are currently receiving benefits and have questions regarding how this new rule will impact you, contact Benefit Programs at 703.746.5700.

   

When does it go into effect?

The new rule goes into effect October 15, 2019. The new rule will not apply to adjustment of status applications that are pending or postmarked before that date. (Source: USCIS)

   

Who does it affect?

The rule applies to those applying to be a lawful permanent resident (i.e., green card applicants), those applying for a visa, and those within the U.S. who hold a nonimmigrant visa and seek to extend their stay in the same classification or change their status to a different nonimmigrant status (i.e., temporary visa holders and applicants). (Source: USCIS)

The new does not apply to immigration applications filed before October 15, 2019.

   

Does the new rule apply to green card holders?

Public charge and any changes under this rule do not apply to lawful permanent residents, i.e., green card holders. It does not affect applications for U.S. Citizenship or green card renewal. However, if you plan to leave the country for more than 6 months, it is a good idea to talk with an immigration attorney. (Source: Protecting Immigrant Families via VDSS)

   

What other immigrant groups are exempt from the rule?

In addition to green card holders, the new rule does not apply to DACA renewals, TPS, U or T Visa, asylum or refugee status or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. If you already have or are in the process of applying for one of these immigration statuses, you can continue to use any government programs that you qualify for. Benefits received while you are in this status will not be counted against you in the future, even if you apply for a green card on another basis. (Source: Protecting Immigrant Families via VDSS)

   

What social services are not included in the new rule?

According to USCIS, the list of public benefits in the rule is exhaustive with respect to non-cash benefits. However, cash benefits for income maintenance may include a variety of general purpose means-tested cash benefits provided by Federal, state, local, or tribal benefit granting agencies. Any benefits not listed not in the rule are excluded from consideration. 

Notably, the rule does not include consideration of emergency medical assistance, disaster relief, national school lunch programs, foster care and adoption, student and mortgage loans, energy assistance, food pantries and homeless shelters and Head Start. 

In addition, DHS will not consider, as part of a public charge inadmissibility determination, public benefits received by noncitizen members of the U.S. armed forces serving in active duty or in any of the Ready Reserve components, and by the service member’s spouse and the service member’s children. 

Similarly, DHS will not consider: 

  • The receipt of Medicaid for the treatment of an emergency medical condition;  
  • Services or benefits funded by Medicaid but provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act;  
  • School-based services or benefits provided to individuals who are at or below the oldest age eligible for secondary education as determined under state or local law;  
  • Medicaid benefits received by an alien under 21 years of age; or 
  • Medicaid benefits received by a woman during pregnancy and during the 60-day period beginning on the last day of the pregnancy.   

If you are currently receiving benefits and have questions regarding how this new rule will impact you, contact Benefit Programs at 703.746.5700.

   

Sources and Resources

   

The content on this page is subject to change and will be updated regularly.

   

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