Public Charge Rule

Updated July 30, 2020


In August 2019, the federal government announced a new rule related to when certain immigrants might be considered a Public Charge under immigration law. The rule will prevent some immigrants from getting legal permanent resident 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. As of June 29, 2020, this new rule has been blocked by a court from going into effect while a COVID-19 national health emergency declaration in effect. 

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.

Statement from Commissioner Bitta Mostofi

“The District Court's decision to halt the implementation of the Public Charge Rule nationwide for the duration of the COVID-19 national health emergency brings relief.  The Court rightly recognized how severely the Rule continues to harm immigrant communities—many of whom are working on the frontlines of this public health crisis—and hinders our efforts to address the devastating health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It is a matter of life or death that all New Yorkers in need of medical care, food assistance, and other benefits and services seek and receive the help they need without fear.  As the Court noted, no one should suffer punishment or penalty if they seek medical care or temporary financial aid as a result of the pandemic's impact. New York City is proud to have joined Attorney General James in protecting immigrant communities from this cruel policy.

New York City residents who have questions about public charge and how accessing certain public benefits may affect immigration status can call the ActionNYC hotline at 1-800-354-0365 to connect with free, safe immigration legal help.”

It is important to know

  • As of June 29, 2020, the new Public Charge rule has been blocked by a court while a COVID-19 national health emergency declaration in effect. 
  • New Yorkers should not stop using public benefits unnecessarily. Many immigrants do not face a Public Charge test in their immigration applications.
  • There is no Public Charge test for green card holders applying for citizenship.
  • Immigrants who are sponsoring a family member abroad, or will be traveling abroad to apply for a green card or visa, should know there is also a Public Charge policy at U.S. consulates.  However, as of July 29, 2020, a federal court has blocked for now implementation of the new public charge rules at U.S. consulates abroad.

New Yorkers with questions about Public Charge should consult with a free, safe immigration legal services provider. Call ActionNYC at 1-800-354-0365 and say “public charge” for connections to City-funded, free and safe immigration legal help.

Get Access to Free Legal Services and Additional Information

  • Immigrant New Yorkers who are concerned about Public Charge can get help making the best decisions for themselves and their families.
    • Learn whether the new Public Charge rule could have an impact on you or your family before withdrawing from benefits you are lawfully entitled to.
    • Get answers to questions about how certain public benefits may affect your immigration status.
  • Call the ActionNYC hotline at 1-800-354-0365 and say “public charge” from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, Monday to Friday, to get answers to your questions, plus:
    • Connections to immigration legal help and referrals to other legal and non-legal services.
    • The hotline is free and anonymous.
    • Help is available in over 200 languages.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

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What is Public Charge?

Under previous policy, a Public Charge was someone who relied on cash assistance or institutionalized long-term care from the government to survive. The only benefits that could be considered under the previous Public Charge test were:

  • 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.

Under the new Public Charge rule, the federal government will consider certain additional types of public benefits, and look at other factors differently.

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.

What is the new Public Charge rule?

Note that as of June 29, 2020, this new rule has been blocked by a court from going into effect while the COVID-19 national health emergency declaration is in effect. Under the new Public Charge rule U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will:

  • Consider more types of public benefits when administering the Public Charge test. Under the new rule, an immigration official will consider more 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. Under the new rule, for individuals applying for a green card or visa within the United States, public benefits or programs used by the applicant's children or family members will 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, federal officials will 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 have children or family members in my household who use some public benefits. Could that hurt my immigration application?

No. Under the new rule, for individuals applying for a green card or visa within the United States, public benefits or programs used by the applicant's children or family members will 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, federal officials will 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 ActionNYC hotline at 1-800-354-0365 and say “public charge” from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, Monday to Friday, to learn more and get answers to your questions.

  • Get connections to immigration legal help and referrals to other legal and non-legal services.
  • The hotline is free and anonymous.
  • Help is available in over 200 languages.

Additional Resources

Full-Page Outreach Flyers

Half-Page Outreach Flyers

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