Resources for Advocates2023-02-17T22:42:48+00:00

RESOURCES FOR ADVOCATES

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Public Charge in Immigration Law

Public charge is a term in immigration law that describes a person who is primarily dependent on the government for support. Some people who apply for a lawful permanent residence or a visa to enter the U.S. must pass a “public charge” testwhich looks at whether the person is likely to use certain government services in the future.

Public Charge & the Trump Administration

In January 2017, the Trump administration issued the first in a series of efforts to expand the definition of public charge under the longstanding 1999 Field Guidance. Leaked drafts threw threw both immigrant communities and immigration rights advocates into a state of alarm and confusion.

The final rule was published on August 14, 2019. Despite the much smaller and focused instances where an immigrant’s use of benefits could harm them, the fear of using any kind of benefit had been installed.

A Recent Timeline on the Public Charge Rule

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is public charge?2022-12-05T00:35:49+00:00

Public charge is a term in immigration law that describes a person who is primarily dependent on the government for support.

Some people who apply for lawful permanent residence or an immigrant visa to enter the U.S. must pass a “public charge” testwhich looks at whether the person is likely to use certain government services in the future.

As part of this test, the immigration officer will consider the immigrant's:

  • Health

  • Age

  • Income/resources

  • Education and skills

  • Family support and sponsor

  • Public Charge Test: Use of certain public benefits (Public Charge Rule)

The immigration officer weighs all the factors above to decide if the person is "likely to become a Public Charge.” However, immigration officers will weigh favorably an Affidavit of Support that meets the income and assets requirements.

It’s Important to Know: Most public benefits are NOT considered in the public charge determination and WILL NOT IMPACT the application for immigration status.

What public benefits are considered for the Public Charge Test?2022-12-15T15:07:11+00:00

Most public benefits DO NOT affect a person's application for immigration status.

The following benefits ARE NOT CONSIDERED in a public charge test:

  • A child’s or other family member’s use of federal safety net programs never affects the applicant’s immigration application. Nutrition and housing assistance programs including SNAP, WIC, School meals, Section 8, and Public Housing;

  • Cash payments for a specific purpose like home energy assistance or childcare;

  • Emergency disaster relief, including pandemic and COVID-19 assistance such as COVID-19 testing, treatment, vaccines, economic impact payment checks (stimulus checks), one-time financial assistance, and food programs like P-EBT;

  • Community-based services like food banks, shelters, and financial assistance regardless of the source of funding;

  • Medicaid and other health care programs are only considered if the government is paying for long-term care, like in a nursing home;

  • “Earned” benefits like Social Security, retirement, and veteran’s benefits.

The following benefits MAY BE CONSIDERED in a public charge test for people who live in Texas:*

  • Cash assistance that is intended to pay for ongoing living expenses, like SSI or TANF; and

  • Long-term institutional care paid for by Medicaid or another government program.**

*Most immigrants who face a Public Charge test are not eligible for the benefits that are considered in this test. For more information, talk to a legal aid lawyer. Need help? Find Immigration Assistance and Legal Aid resources here!

**If you have used these specific programs in the past, you still have a chance to show that you are not likely to become a public charge in the future. Immigration officials must look at all of your circumstances when they review your green card or visa application.

View a PDF of Benefits

Who is affected by the Public Charge Test?2022-12-15T15:22:05+00:00

Public Charge DOES apply to:

  • Immigrants applying for Lawful Permanent Residence (Green Card) through a family-based petition
  • Lawful Permanent Residents who leave the U.S. for more than 6 months and seek to re-enter the U.S.
  • A slightly different rule applies to some "non-immigrants" applying to change or extend their student visas (example: student visas).

Public Charge DOES NOT apply to:

  • U.S. Citizens
  • Lawful Permanent Residents (Green Card holders) applying for citizenship or green card renewals
  • Refugees applying to change status to Lawful Permanent Residents.
  • Asylees applying to change status to Lawful Permanent Residents.
  • TPS: people applying for initial or re-registration of Temporary Protected Status
  • DACA: people applying to renew Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
  • SIJS: children applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status or applying for a Green Card after having been approved for SIJS
  • U Visa: people applying for a U visa or U visa holders applying for a Green Card
  • T Visa: people applying for a T visa and T visa holders applying for a Green Card
  • VAWA: people self-petition for immigration relief under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and people with VAWA who are applying for a Green Card
  • People applying for withholding of removal or under the Convention Against Torture
  • Cubans applying under the Cuban Adjustment Act;
  • SIV: Afghan and Iraqi interpreters and translators who are applying for special immigrant visas
  • Registry: People applying for registry (lived in the U.S. since January 1, 1972)
  • NACARA: People applying for green card under Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act
  • HRIFA: People applying for green card under Haitian Relief and Immigrant Fairness Act (HRIFA)
  • Lautenberg parolees - individuals from the former Soviet Union, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos who were paroled into the U.S. and are applying for green cards
  • Certain other "humanitarian" immigrants
Where can families find official sources about Public Charge?2022-12-15T15:36:22+00:00

You can lead families to the following official sources:

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