Public Charge Rule FAQs

Page updated on Oct 6, 2020 at 8:47 AM

UPDATE: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Public Charge Rule is Still in Place in Virginia.

On Wednesday, July 29, 2020, a federal court temporarily blocked the DHS and the Department of State from moving forward with the new public charge rules. The first of these two orders bars the implementation, application and enforcement of the DHS rule nationwide so long as there is a declared national emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The second-order blocks the DOS rules, which made similar updates to the Foreign Affairs Manual instructions and the Health Care Proclamation as the case goes forward. However, on Wednesday, August 12, 2020, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals limited a lower court nationwide injunction on the DHS public charge rule, which indicates that the rule is now barred only in Vermont, Connecticut, and New York, making the public charge rule is still in effect in Virginia.

On September 11, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in State of New York granted a full stay of the July 29, 2020, injunction pending the government’s appeal. This full stay allows DHS to resume implementing the public charge final rule nationwide, including Virginia.

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?

When did it go into effect?

Does the new rule apply to green card holders?

What other immigrant groups are exempt from the rule?

What benefits affect public charge determinations? What social services are not included in the new rule? What about COVID-19 relief and testing?

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

Sources and Resources


Key Facts

  • The 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).
  • This new 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 new rule?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security published a new “public charge” rule in August 2019 that went into effect on February 24, 2020, that changed how the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines that an immigrant is 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 February 24, the immigration officials began looking 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.

On Wednesday, July 29, 2020, a federal court temporarily blocked the DHS and the Department of State from moving forward with the new public charge rules. The first of these two orders bars the implementation, application and enforcement of the DHS rule nationwide so long as there is a declared national emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The second-order blocks the DOS rules, which made similar updates to the Foreign Affairs Manual instructions and the Health Care Proclamation as the case goes forward. 

However, on Wednesday, August 12, 2020, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals limited a lower court nationwide injunction on the DHS public charge rule, which indicates that the rule is now barred only in Vermont, Connecticut, and New York, making the public charge rule is still in effect in Virginia.

On September 11, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in State of New York granted a full stay of the July 29, 2020, injunction pending the government’s appeal. This full stay allows DHS to resume implementing the public charge final rule nationwide, including Virginia.

According the USCIS web site, DHS and the USCIS will apply the public charge final rule to all applications and petitions postmarked or submitted electronically on or after Feb. 24, 2020, including pending applications and petitions. For applications sent via commercial courier (for example, UPS, FedEx, or DHL), USCIS will use the date on the courier receipt as the postmark date.

USCIS will not re-adjudicate any applications and petitions that were approved following the issuance of the July 29, 2020, injunction continuing until the date of this notice.

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?

On January 27, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that the Administration can implement its public charge rule, after a previous lower court injunction prevented the rule from being implemented on its original effective date of October 15, 2019. According to a Department of Homeland Security announcement, the regulation went into effect February 24, 2020. It is also used for Legal Permanent Residents (green card holders) who leave the United States for 180 days or more.

   

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 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 180 days or more, 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?

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)

   

What benefits affect public charge determinations? Which ones are not counted? What about COVID-19 relief and testing?

In March 2020, the USCIS issued guidance on receiving COVID-19 related resources or services as it relates to the new Public Charge rule, which became effective on February 24, 2020. The guidance clarified whether receipt of certain COVID-19 related resources would impact a public charge determination. Below is a chart which illustrates the impact certain resources may have on a public charge determination, including COVID-19 related relief. Download or view the chart and additional information.

Public Charge Rule - Understanding the COVID-19 Guidance 08 24 20 Updated


The public benefits included in the 2019 Public Charge include:

  • Any federal, state, local or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

  • Medicaid for non-pregnant adults over the age of 21

  • Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program

  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation)

  • Federally-subsidized public housing.

The following is a list of other benefits and programs that are not factored into public charge. (This list is not exhaustive. Only the benefits listed above are included in the 2019 public charge rule.)

  • Emergency Medicaid

  • 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 (age 20 in Virginia)

  • Medicaid benefits received by an individual under 21 years of age

  • Medicaid benefits received by a woman during pregnancy and during the 60-day period beginning on the last day of the pregnancy

  • Women, Infant and Children Program (WIC)

  • FAMIS/FAMIS Plus

  • In addition, programs like disaster relief, free and reduced school lunch programs, student and mortgage loans, energy assistance, unemployment insurance and Head Start are not included.

The above lists were adapted with permission from Fairfax County. Learn more about resources available to immigrants. Learn about healthcare options available to those without insurance or undocumented.

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


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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