Get specific information for California

We're here to help.
Get the facts about public charge & immigration.

Rules about public benefit programs and immigrants are confusing. But benefits can help your family stay healthy and thrive.

Click Use the Guide to see if public benefits could affect different immigration options.

Immigrant Eligibility for COVID-19 Related Benefits

What are Public Benefits and Public Charge?

Not all immigrants face a public charge test. Click to learn which immigrants are affected.

Only a few public benefits programs are included in the public charge test. Click here to learn about benefits.

Most immigrants who face a Public Charge test are not eligible for the benefits that are considered in this test.

Public Charge Rule

Some immigration applications have a Public Charge test. An immigration officer uses this test to decide if a person is likely to use certain public benefits in the future.

Public Benefit Programs

Public Benefits are help from the government for basic needs like health care, housing, food, or cash. They can be from the federal, state, or local government. Read below to see which Public Benefits count for Public Charge.

Who is affected by the Public Charge Rule?

  • check_circle

    It does not apply to:

    • U.S. Citizens or people applying for citizenship

    • Lawful Permanent residents (Green Card holders) unless the Green Card holder leaves the U.S. for more than 6 months. A Public Charge assessment can apply when they try to return.

    • People applying for Green Card renewal, DACA renewal, TPS, U or T Visas, Asylum or Refugee Status, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status or VAWA.

    • People who have a U or T Visa, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, VAWA or Asylum/Refugee status.

    • People applying for a Green Card based on a U or T visa, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, VAWA or Asylum/Refugee status.

    For a complete list, visit the Public Charge page.

  • warning

    It may apply to:

    • Immigrants applying for Lawful Permanent Residence (Green Card) through a family-based petition.

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

    • A slightly different rule applies to some "non-immigrants" applying to change or extend their student visas (example: student visas).

Which Public Benefits are included in the Public Charge Rule?

For applications filed before February 24, 2020:

  • Cash Assistance: Supplemental Security Income (SSI); Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); State or local general relief/assistance
  • Medicaid for long-term nursing home care

For applications filed on or after February 24, 2020:

  • Cash Assistance: Supplemental Security Income (SSI); Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); State or local general relief/assistance

AND these benefits, if received by the immigrant on or after February 24, 2020:

  • Federally-funded, non-emergency Medicaid unless under 21 years old or pregnant
  • Federal SNAP (food stamps)
  • Federal public housing/"Section 8"

KYB-protest.jpg

The Public Charge rules mainly look at the benefits used by the person applying for a Green Card through a family petition. The rule does not look at benefits used by family members who are not applying for a Green Card.

And most people who face a public charge test don't qualify for the benefits that are counted in the Public Charge rule.

Many Public Benefits are not included in the Public Charge Rule

  • healing

    Everyone needs health care.

    These benefits will not affect immigration options:

    • Medicaid programs for children under 21
    • Emergencies, Pregnancies before and after birth
    • State-funded Medicaid programs
    • Affordable Care Act
    • Medicare, County hospitals and clinics
    • COVID-19 testing and treatment

  • local_grocery_store

    Good nutrition is always important.

    These benefits are not counted in a Public Charge test:

    • Food pantry programs
    • Child Nutrition Programs
    - Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
    - School Lunch and Breakfast

  • home

    We all need a place to live.

    These benefits do not affect immigration options: 



    • Local shelters
    • Locally-funded housing assistance

  • work

    Your rights as a worker are protected.

    These benefits are not counted in a Public Charge test:

    • Unemployment
    • Social Security Retirement/Disability
    • Workers compensation
    • Tax credits

Do Public Benefits Affect Immigration Options?

Answer a few questions to see if public benefits affect different immigration options. The guide is safe and private. There are no personal questions. The results can help you decide what is best for you and your family.

Our Partners