Public Charge Rule

Updated August 30, 2019


Statement from Commissioner Bitta Mostofi:

"The 'public charge' rule is yet another attempt by the Trump administration to instill fear and concern among working immigrant families, but rest assured New Yorkers are fighters and the City will do everything in our power to ensure people have the resources they need to at this critical time. If you are worried or have questions about how 'public charge' could impact you or your loved ones, you can call ActionNYC at 311 or 800-354-0365 and say 'public charge' to access city-funded, trusted legal advice. The City is here to help you make the right decision for you and your family."

The federal government announced a rule change 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.

This page contains general information about the rule change 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 "public charge" test only applies to certain immigrants. In general, green card holders are not subject to the "public charge" test, although there may be exceptions. Refugees, asylees, U or T visa holders, VAWA self-petitioners, Special Immigrant Juveniles, and those with certain other statuses are generally not subject to the "public charge" test, or can apply for a waiver from the test,
  • This rule change does not change eligibility requirements for public benefits programs.
  • This rule will only come into effect on October 15, 2019. This may be delayed due to litigation.
  • There is no "public charge" test when applying for citizenship. This proposed rule would not change that.

Get Access to Free Legal Services and Additional Information

  • Immigrant New Yorkers who are concerned about how the Trump administration's changes to the "public charge" rule 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"? Does it apply to all immigrants?

Federal immigration law allows immigration officials to deny green cards and visas if they find that an applicant is likely to become a "public charge." "Public charge" is a test to see if someone is likely to become dependent on specific government programs. The test only applies when someone is applying for a green card, visa, or sometimes when entering the U.S. after an extended absence.

The "public charge" test does not apply to all immigration statuses. Certain immigration statuses, such as refugees, asylees, U or T visa holders, VAWA self-petitioners, Special Immigrant Juveniles, and other statuses, are generally not subject to the "public charge" test, or may be eligible for a waiver when applying for a green card or visa.

There is not a "public charge" test in the citizenship application process.

Does the "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.

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

Yes. Under the previous rule, a "public charge" was someone who relied on cash assistance or long term care from the government to survive. The only benefits that could be considered under that 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."

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. This rule change will go into effect on October 15, 2019, though this date may be delayed due to litigation. After the date on which the rule goes into effect, 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, 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 more closely, 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. Public benefits or programs used by the children or family members of an applicant for a green card or visa are not counted against the applicant in the "public charge" test.

However, under the new rule federal officials will look more closely at things 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 rule change, there is generally no "public charge" test if you are a refugee, asylee, U or T visa holder, VAWA self-petitioner or Special Immigrant Juvenile. 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