“Public charge” is a ground of inadmissibility. Grounds of inadmissibility are reasons that a person could be denied a green card, visa, or admission into the United States. In deciding whether to grant some applicants a green card or a visa, an immigration officer must decide whether that person is likely to become dependent on certain government benefits in the future, which would make them a “public charge.” It is not a test that applies to everyone, not even to all those applying for green cards.

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) provides trainings and technical assistance on public charge, produces numerous practice advisories, toolkits, and other resources, and authors a comprehensive manual, Public Charge and Immigration Law.

What's Happening with Public Charge?

On December 23, 2022 a new rule on public charge went into effect. For more information, go to the ILRC’s public charge updates page. We are working to update our resources in light of the new rule, which solidifies and strengthens longstanding guidance, but in the meantime much of the information in the resources on this page continue to apply. Note, however, that any I-485 applications submitted on or after December 23, 2022 must use the updated 12/23/22 edition date.

Public Charge Safe to Use List

This resource lists some of the most common public benefits programs that do not count for public charge, no matter your immigration status.