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Public Charge Explained

"Public Charge" makes people afraid to use public benefits. But the Public Charge Rule does not affect every immigration application. And most immigrants who face a Public Charge test do not receive the benefits that count.

This article will explain:

  • What is Public Charge
  • What benefits are included in the rule
  • Who is affected by the rule and who is not

Do Public Benefits Affect Immigration Options? Use the Guide to find out.

About the Public Charge Rule

When someone applies for a Green Card through a family petition, the immigration officials can deny the application for different reasons. One reason is if the government thinks the person is likely to depend too much on public benefits in the future. This is called the Public Charge Rule.

The immigration officer will consider the immigrant's:

  • Health
  • Age
  • Income/resources
  • Education and skills
  • Family size and potential sponsor
  • Receiving the two kinds of public benefits listed below

The officer weighs all these factors. They consider positive factors, like a job or skills or support from a sponsor. They consider negative factors, like low income or health problems. If an immigrant receives a counted benefit, officials will look at how recently and for how long. They do not consider benefits received for family members. They can deny the application if they think the person will depend too much on public benefits in the future.

Public Charge Rule Updates

December 23, 2022: The Biden Administration's regulation is now in effect. The regulation confirms that food, health, and housing benefits are not included in the rule.


Public Benefits are part of the Public Charge Test

Only these public benefits* obtained for the immigrant are considered in the Public Charge Test.

  • accessibility

    • Cash benefits for income maintenance
      - SSI (Supplemental Security Income)
      - CalWorks/TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)
      - CAPI (Cash Assistance Programs for Immigrants)
      - GA (General Assistance/Relief)
    • Medi-Cal/Medicaid for long-term, medical care in an institution, like a nursing home or psychiatric hospital

    *Note: Most immigrants who face a Public Charge test aren't eligible for cash benefits. For more information, talk to a legal aid lawyer.

Who is Affected by the Public Charge Rule?

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    It does not apply to:

    • U.S. Citizens

    • Lawful Permanent Residents (Green Card holders) applying for citizenship or card renewals

    • Refugees: people applying for refugee status, or for a Green Card as a refugee

    • Asylum: people applying for asylum, or for a Green Card as an Asylee

    • TPS: people applying for initial or re-registration of Temporary Protected Status

    • DACA: people applying to renew Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

    • SIJS: people applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status or applying for a Green Card thru 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 applying for 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; Amerasians who are applying for admission

    • 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 before January 1, 1972)

    • NACARA: People applying for Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act benefits

    • HRIFA: People applying for Haitian Relief and Immigrant Fairness Act (HRIFA) benefits

    • Lautenberg parolees

    • Certain other "humanitarian" immigrants

    Source: Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

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    It does apply to:

    • Immigrants applying for Lawful Permanent Residence (Green Card) through a family-based petition. (U/T visa holders and VAWA immigrants are exempt.)

    • Lawful Permanent Residents who leave the U.S. for 6 months or more at one time and seek to re-enter the U.S.

    • People seeking to enter the U.S. temporarily as "non-immigrants."

What are the changes to the Public Charge Rule?

The final public charge regulation clarifies when and which benefits count.

If you are not sure about your situation, use the public charge Guide. The guide will help you understand if Public Charge or using public benefits could affect your immigration plans.

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