Immigration officials may deny permanent residency (commonly referred to as “green cards”) or entry if they determine an immigrant is likely to depend on government assistance. Under Biden-Harris Administration policy, public charge determination has been changed away from its previous interpretation under Trump and toward historical understandings of public charge.
What is a public charge?
Public charges are noncitizens who become likely dependent on government support for support. Once determined to be public charges, those determined as such could be denied admission into the United States or lawful permanent residency (also known as green cards). DHS issued in 2022 final guidance that excluded most noncash benefits such as Medicaid Home and Community Based Services from consideration when making this determination.
Utilizing public benefits does not automatically render you a public charge; immigration officers must carefully consider all factors when making this determination. The Keep Your Benefits Guide can assist in understanding how public benefit use affects your immigration options; use it to see if housing, food and health care can be obtained without jeopardizing your immigration status – this tool is also available in Spanish and Chinese for your convenience.
Who is a public charge?
As public charge regulations can be complex and unclear, families should not let them deter them from seeking services that will help keep them healthy, such as COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and care; food assistance; housing support services and free legal aid.
Immigration officials may determine whether an individual is likely to become a public charge and, thus, ineligible for entry or permanent residency (commonly known as a green card). They take into account various factors including past receipt of benefits like cash assistance programs as well as long-term institutionalization at government expense.
From 2023-2025, most non-cash federal and state benefits such as SNAP, WIC, school lunches, child care subsidies, Medicaid benefits for Section 8 housing benefits and food banks and shelters will not be considered when measuring income; however Medicare enrollment (except institutional long-term care services ) will. This rule was eventually overruled by the Supreme Court.
What counts as a public charge?
Public charges are those who rely too heavily on government benefits like food, cash and housing assistance to sustain themselves financially. Public charge status can have serious repercussions for people seeking citizenship or permanent residency; DACA renewal applications; TPS applications; VAWA requests; Special Immigrant Juvenile Status claims and asylum applicants. Immigration officers may deny applications if they believe an individual will likely become a public charge and will take into consideration factors like age, health, family support from sponsors; skills education level as part of this evaluation process.
Before the Trump Administration changed in 2019, immigration officials considered many government services, such as Medi-Cal, when making public charge determinations. Now only certain forms of assistance such as long-term care in nursing homes count against a public charge determination while other services like SNAP, WIC school lunches Section 8 housing assistance shelters and COVID-19 related medical care remain safe to continue using. Overall, Biden Administration rules align closely with 1999 federal guidance regarding public charge determination.
How do I know if I’m a public charge?
“Public Charge” refers to someone who appears likely to rely on government support for subsistence, such as an immigrant being denied entry or adjustment status to lawful permanent resident (green card holder). As part of President Trump’s changes to the public charge rule, more government benefits than ever before are being considered when deciding if someone meets this definition – making many essential services like Medi-Cal, marketplace health insurance, COVID-19 testing/treatment services like vaccines available again for use without fear.
Be mindful that the new public charge rules do not impact everyone; if you are worried about receiving health insurance or other essential services, consult a qualified immigration attorney immediately. Those excluded from the rule include refugees, asylees, T and U nonimmigrants reregistering with TPS for TPS renewal purposes, DACA applicants seeking renewal status, Special Immigrant Juveniles seeking asylum status as well as self-petitioners under VAWA; the 2019 change to this public charge rule also did not impact eligibility for premium subsidies in healthcare exchanges;