Update on Public Charge Rule, Guidance on Accessing COVID-19 Related Benefits

Page updated on Oct 2, 2020 at 3:36 PM

Public Charge RuleA series of court rulings and litigation in July, August and September 2020 regarding the enforcement of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “public charge rule” leaves the rule still in effect in Virginia and the rest of the U.S.

The DHS rule, which was published in August 2019 and went into effect in February 2020, is the standard by which the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) determines whether an individual is likely to become a public charge, or primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.

The rule is used when an individual applies for a visa, legal permanent resident status (i.e., a green card) or a change in status (i.e., someone with a nonimmigrant visa seeking to extend their stay or change their status to a different nonimmigrant status). 

The public charge rule does not affect legal permanent residents (green card holders), except for those who leave the United States for 180 days or more. Others exempt 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. Active duty servicemembers, including those in the Ready Reserve of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their spouses and children, are also exempt. 

Immigrants in one of the above statuses can receive public benefits and resources and it will not affect their status. The rule also does not affect applications for U.S. Citizenship or green card renewal.

In July, a court ruling barred the rule from being applied during the COVID-19 pandemic. On September 11, another decision allowed DHS to resume implementing the rule nationwide. 

After the September ruling, USCIS reissued its March 2020 guidance regarding certain COVID-19 related resources which will not be counted under the public charge rule, like COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccines, certain CARES Act programs and Pandemic EBT and Unemployment Assistance programs. View or download a fact sheet about the rule and a chart illustrating the impact certain resources may have on public charge determinations, including COVID-19 related relief.

For those without lawful permanent resident status who are concerned about immigration status or applications, download or view a list of healthcare options that includes anonymous testing options and healthcare facilities that do not ask for or require immigration status to receive services.

Virginia Department of Social Services and DCHS encourage those who are seeking legal advice about a specific case to contact an immigration expert. To find help in your area, visit www.immigrationadvocates.org/nonprofit/legaldirectory.

For more information on the public charge rule, read a series of FAQs