UPDATE: On March 9, 2021, the Biden administration dropped its defense of the Trump public charge rule. As a result, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Seventh Circuit dismissed the pending cases, bringing an end to the new public charge rule.
A district court order vacating the rule is now final. The long-standing 1999 “field guidance” will apply effective immediately, making it safe for immigrants and their families to use health, nutrition, and housing programs for which they qualify. Health care programs, including Medicaid and COVID care, housing, food programs, and many other vital services are once again safe to use.
In addition, many eligible immigrants will be able to pursue legal status without fear of the harsh public charge rule. The Department of State has been blocked from applying its new public charge rule at U.S. consulates and embassies abroad since July 29, 2020. Now that the DHS rule has been vacated, both adjustment of status cases and cases decided at the consulates will be decided based on the prior 1999 guidance. Under this guidance, only those deemed likely to be primarily dependent on cash aid for income maintenance or long-term care at government expense could be denied for public charge.
Remember, the public charge test only applies to some programs and some immigrants.
- It never applies to U.S. citizens, including the children of immigrants.
- It also doesn’t apply to most people with a green card, or asylees, refugees, people with U visas, T visas, VAWA, and many others.
- A family member’s use of public programs cannot affect your future immigration applications.
- Testing, treatment, and preventative services for COVID-19 — including vaccines — are not part of public charge. Pandemic relief payments (stimulus checks) are also not part of public charge.
- The use of health, nutrition, and housing programs cannot be considered in the public charge test.
USCIS created a new Public Charge Resources page here, which includes FAQs about which public benefits are considered when making public charge inadmissibility determinations under the 1999 guidance. For example, it stresses that USCIS does not consider COVID-19 testing, treatment, vaccines, or public benefits specifically related to the coronavirus pandemic. It also includes answers to questions about other programs and tax credits.
In August 2021, USCIS started the rulemaking process on public charge, but there have been no changes to public charge policy to date.
See the Department of Homeland Security’s statement on the public charge litigation here.
See USCIS's information on how it is deciding public charge cases here.
For more details on the litigation leading up to March 9, 2021, see our timeline here.