Public Charge Rule

Updated March 10, 2021

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, now blocked nationwide, sought to prevent some immigrants from getting lawful permanent resident status (also known as a green card) or a visa if they used certain public benefits or the federal government believed they were likely to depend on public benefits in the future.

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

  • As of March 9, 2021, the new Public Charge rule is blocked nationwide. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has stated that it will return to using policies in place before the new Public Charge rule.
  • Additionally, on February 2, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order directing federal agencies to review public charge rules and policies and submit recommendations after 60 days. 
  • All New Yorkers in need of medical care, food assistance, and other benefits and services should seek the help they need without fear. Many health and social services—including COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and care, food assistance, tenant protection, and free legal help—are available to New Yorkers no matter your immigration status or ability to pay. View more information or call 311 to learn about available services and resources in your language.
  • Public Charge policy does not affect eligibility requirements for public benefits. 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.

Get Access to Free Legal Services and Additional Information

  • Immigrant New Yorkers who have questions about Public Charge can call ActionNYC at 800-354-0365 and say “public charge.” Call the hotline Monday to Friday, between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m..
  • The ActionNYC hotline provides timely and trusted information, connections to City-funded, free and safe 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

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

What is Public Charge?

Immigration officials could deny certain applications for lawful permanent residence (“green card”) or certain visas if they determine that an individual is likely to become a “public charge.” Under DHS policy, a Public Charge is someone who relies on cash assistance or institutionalized long-term care from the government to survive. The only benefits that can be considered under the Public Charge 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."

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

No. Under current law and DHS policy, 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 ActionNYC at 800-354-0365 and say “public charge” Monday to Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., to learn more and get answers to your questions.

  • Get connections to City-funded, free and safe 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

Social Media Graphics

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