Our immigration law includes a provision that says a person is “inadmissible” if they are likely to become a public charge, meaning they could be denied admission or a green card on that basis. Under our current policies, public charge refers to individuals who are primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, like people who rely on cash assistance programs, or require long-term care at the government’s expense.
This law only affects those applying for a permanent residence (a green card) in the United States through U.S. citizen or permanent resident family members, those who are applying for certain temporary visas abroad, or people applying for an immigrant visa at a consulate abroad based on a family petition. Many people are not affected by public charge rules, including people applying for other types of immigration status, most current permanent residents, and people who do not plan to apply for any immigration benefits.
On August 14, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a final rule related to public charge in the Federal Register that would affect applications decided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), within the United States. However, this new rule has been blocked by the courts while the legal challenges against the new rule are decided, so it is NOT in effect. Longstanding public charge policy continues to apply to all cases decided by USCIS. Note that different rules apply for those whose applications will be decided by U.S. consulates or embassies abroad. This packet does not address the rules that apply at consulates and embassies abroad.
The new rule has created confusion and fear in our communities. Because it is very difficult to understand who might be impacted, many immigrant families have decided to disenroll or refuse enrolling in programs that are necessary to survive and thrive. Many immigrants remain exempt from this public charge rule and many immigrants continue to be eligible for various programs.
This is a packet of information to assist education and outreach workers presenting information to community members. Our goal is to spread accurate information about what the law is and who is impacted. We hope that these resources will enable community organizations to provide information in community forums and at community events so that families can make good decisions for their families.