Public Charge Rule

Updated October 11, 2019


Statement from Mayor Bill de Blasio:

"In New York City, we always stand up for our immigrant brothers and sisters. The court’s decision to halt the public charge rule from going into effect nationwide is only further proof of something we already know – the President’s policies are xenophobic and hateful, with no basis in fact or reality. We’ll continue to fight him every step of the way."

Statement from Commissioner Bitta Mostofi:

“The nationwide injunction granted today is a huge victory in our fight to prevent the public charge rule from taking effect and to protect the physical and mental health and well-being of immigrant communities across the nation. I am thrilled that the court recognized the harmful impact this rule would have on our immigrant families, and has stopped it from going into effect for now. New York City residents who have questions or concerns about public charge and the impact of public benefits on immigration can access city-funded, trusted legal help by calling ActionNYC at 311 or 1-800-354-0365 and saying 'public charge.'"

In August 2019, the federal government announced a new rule related to when certain immigrants might be considered a "public charge" under immigration law. It could prevent some immigrants from getting legal permanent residence status (also known as a green card) or a visa if they use certain public benefits or the federal government believes they are likely to depend on public benefits in the future. A court has blocked the rule from going into effect for now.

This page contains general information about “public charge” and how New Yorkers can get further information and assistance. The information below is for general educational purposes and is not legal advice.

It is important to know

  • The new rule is not yet in effect. On October 11th, a court has blocked it from going into effect for now.
  • New Yorkers should not stop using public benefits unnecessarily. New Yorkers who have questions or concerns about public benefits and immigration should consult with a City-funded, free, safe immigration legal services provider by calling ActionNYC at 1-800-354-0365 and saying “public charge.” 
  • Many immigrants are exempt from any “public charge” test in their immigration applications. Those with questions should seek legal advice by calling ActionNYC at 1-800-354-0365 and saying “public charge.” 
  • Those immigrants who are sponsoring a family member abroad, or will be traveling abroad to apply for a green card or visa, should call ActionNYC at 1-800-354-0365.  
  • There is no “public charge” test for green card holders applying for citizenship.

Get Access to Free Legal Services and Additional Information

  • Immigrant New Yorkers who are concerned about how the Trump administration's changes to "public charge" could impact them or their loved ones can get help making the best decisions for themselves and their families. You can get informed by:
    • Learning whether the "public charge" rule change has an impact on you before choosing to withdraw from a benefit that you or your family member are lawfully entitled to.
    • Getting answers to questions about how receiving public benefits may affect your immigration status.
  • You can call the City-funded ActionNYC hotline at 800-354-0365 and say "public charge" from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, Monday to Friday, to learn more and get answers to your questions.
    • You can schedule an appointment to consult with a City-funded, free, trusted immigration legal services provider.
    • The hotline is free and anonymous.
    • Help is available in over 200 languages.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Click a topic, or press the enter key on a topic, to reveal its answer.

What is "public charge"? 

Currently,  a "public charge" was is someone who relies on cash assistance or institutionalized long- term care from the government to survive. The only benefits that could can be considered under that test are:

 

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • State and local cash assistance for income maintenance
  • Institutionalization for long-term care at government expense

 

In addition to use of these public benefits, federal law also requires the government to look at a number of factors – including age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, and skills – to determine whether someone is likely to become a "public charge."

On August 14, 2019, the federal government published a new “public charge” rule with a different test that was scheduled to go into effect on October 15, 2019.  However, on October 11th, a court blocked the new “public charge” rule from going into effect for now.

Does the new "public charge" rule change affect eligibility requirements for public benefits?

No. Eligibility requirements for public benefits and programs will not change as a result of the new "public charge" rule, which was blocked by a court on October 11th, 2019.

Doesn't the federal government already have a "public charge" test?

Yes. Currently, a "public charge" is someone who relies on cash assistance or institutionalization for long-term care from the government to survive. The only benefits that can be considered under that test are:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • State and local cash assistance for income maintenance
  • Institutionalization for long-term care at government expense

In addition to use of these public benefits, federal law also requires the government to look at a number of factors – including age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, and skills – to determine whether someone is likely to become a "public charge."

This policy is still in place. On October 11th, a court blocked the new “public charge” rule from going into effect for now.

Did the federal government propose changes to its current "public charge" immigration policy?

Yes. On August 14, 2019, the federal government published its final "public charge" rule change. The rule is not yet in effect. A court has blocked it from going into effect for now. If the rule goes into effect in the future, the federal government will officially:

  • Add more types of public benefits that are considered by federal immigration officials when they administer the "public charge" test. Under the new rule, which has been blocked from going into effect for now, an immigration official may consider more non-cash benefits, such as non-emergency Medicaid (with some exceptions), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and housing assistance (such as public housing or Section 8 housing vouchers and rental assistance).
  • Look at other factors differently. The new rule provides a new framework for the federal government to consider  factors such as an individual's age, education, employment history, income, assets, health conditions, among other factors, to determine whether an immigrant is likely to become a "public charge" in the future, even if the individual has never used benefits in the past.

I have children or family members in my household who use some public benefits. Could that hurt my immigration application?

No. First, the new rule is not in effect. A court has blocked it from going into effect for now.  Second, under the new rule, public benefits or programs used by the children or family members of an applicant for a green card or visa would not be counted against the applicant in the "public charge" test unless the applicant is a beneficiary of those benefits or programs.

However, under the new rule, if it were to go into effect, federal officials would use a new framework to consider factors like age, family size, household income, and assets in determining whether certain immigrants are likely to use benefits in the future. 

I am a refugee. Does public charge apply to me?

No. Under both current law and the new rule, there is generally no "public charge" test if you are a refugee or asylee. There are also other statuses not listed here that may not be subject to public charge. See below for information on how to get your questions answered, and connect to free legal services.

I have questions about how "public charge" might apply to me. How can I get legal help?

You can call the City-funded ActionNYC hotline at 800-354-0365 and say "public charge" from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, Monday to Friday, to learn more and get answers to your questions.

  • You can schedule an appointment to consult with a City-funded, free, trusted immigration legal services provider.
  • The hotline is free and anonymous.
  • Help is available in over 200 languages.

Additional Resources

Download and print our Half-Page Public Charge Outreach flyer.

Download and print our Full-Page Public Charge Outreach flyer.

Evaluations and Reports

Fact Sheet: SNAP Enrollment Trends in New York City
June 2019
Download the fact sheet

Expanding Public Charge Inadmissibility: The Impact on Immigrants, Households, and the City of New York
December 2018
Download the research brief