Public Charge Rule FAQs

Page updated on Jul 8, 2021 at 9:34 AM

UPDATE: March 9, 2021


United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is no longer applying the August 2019 Public Charge Final Rule. As a consequence, among other changes, USCIS will apply the public charge inadmissibility statute consistent with the 1999 Interim Field Guidance. In other words, USCIS is not considering an applicant’s receipt of Medicaid (except for long-term institutionalization at the government’s expense), public housing, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits as part of the public charge inadmissibility determination.

On March 9, 2021, the Seventh Circuit lifted its stay and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois’ order vacating the Public Charge Final Rule went into effect. When the vacatur went into effect, USCIS immediately stopped applying the Public Charge Final Rule to all pending applications and petitions that would have been subject to the rule. USCIS continues to apply the public charge inadmissibility statute, including consideration of the statutory minimum factors in the totality of the circumstances, in accordance with the 1999 Interim Field Guidance that was in place before the Public Charge Final Rule was implemented. In addition, USCIS will no longer apply the separate, but related, “public benefits condition” to applications or petitions for extension of nonimmigrant stay and change of nonimmigrant status.

Therefore, receiving Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps), or federally-subsidized housing no longer impacts an immigrant’s application for Lawful Permanent Resident (green card) status. In addition, factors such as an immigrant’s medical history, age, income and assets, education level, family size, and English proficiency are no longer considered. Immigration officials will now use the 1999 public charge interim field guidance, which only considers income-maintenance benefits, including SSI, TANF, and state/local cash assistance programs, as well as institutionalization for long-term care funded by the federal government.

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 Public Charge Rule?

Does the new rule apply to green card holders?

What other immigrant groups are exempt from the rule?

Where can I find out more about resources available to immigrants and refugees?

Sources and Resources


Key Facts

  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is no longer applying the August 2019 Public Charge Final Rule. As a consequence, among other changes, USCIS will apply the public charge inadmissibility statute consistent with the 1999 Interim Field Guidance. In other words, USCIS is not considering an applicant’s receipt of Medicaid (except for long-term institutionalization at the government’s expense), public housing, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits as part of the public charge inadmissibility determination.
  • The Public Charge rule affects 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).
  • The Public Charge rule does not apply to all immigrants. This rule does not apply to lawful permanent residents (i.e., green card holders) and does affect applications for U.S. Citizenship or green card renewal. However, green card holders planning to leave the country 180 days should consult an immigration attorney as it may affect reentry. (See What other groups are exempt from the rule? for a complete list of immigrants not affected by the public charge rule.)

   

What is the Public Charge rule?

Public charge has been part of federal immigration law since 1882 and is used in an application for Lawful Permanent Resident (green card) status. It is designed to identify people who may depend on the government as their main source of support in the future.  

Under the 1999 public charge interim field guidance, receiving Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps), or federally-subsidized housing does not impact an immigrant’s application for Lawful Permanent Resident (green card) status. In addition, factors such as an immigrant’s medical history, age, income and assets, education level, family size, and English proficiency are not considered. Immigration decisions regarding Public Charge under the 1999 public charge interim field guidance only consider income-maintenance benefits, including SSI, TANF, and state/local cash assistance programs, as well as institutionalization for long-term care funded by the federal government. Public assistance for children and other family members has never been considered in public charge. In addition, it does not apply to refugees; asylees; survivors of domestic violence, trafficking and other serious crimes; special immigrant juveniles; and certain individuals paroled into the U.S. 

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

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)

Does the 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 180 days or more, it is a good idea to talk with an immigration attorney. (Source: Public Charge Definition)

What other immigrant groups are exempt from the rule?

Others exempt groups include refugees; asylees; survivors of trafficking, domestic violence, or other serious crimes (T or U visa applicants/holders); VAWA self-petitioners; special immigrant juveniles; and certain people paroled into the U.S. Benefits received when immigrants are in one of these statuses will not be counted against them. Active duty servicemembers, including those in the Ready Reserve of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their spouses and children, are also exempt. This rule does not affect applications for U.S. Citizenship or green card renewal. (Source: Fairfax County)

Where can I find information about resources available to immigrants and refugees? 

The City of Alexandria is home to more than 150,000 people from a rich diversity of backgrounds. The City is committed to providing a wide range of effective and essential safety net services to improve or maintain the well-being, safety and self-sufficiency of all its residents—including the hundreds of refugees and immigrants we welcome into our community every year. Learn more about services and programs provided by the City as well as collaborative partners, nonprofits and other organizations working to improve lives in our community.

Sources and Resources

   

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

   

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