Public Charge Rule

Updated March 16, 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. The Department of Homeland Security has announced it will begin implementing the rule on February 24, 2020. This follows decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court which permitted the rule to go into effect while lawsuits continue.

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

I am deeply troubled that the court has allowed this dangerous Public Charge Rule to go into effect, for now, placing the well-being of millions of families, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities at risk. The City will do everything in its power to connect people to the resources they need and to help dispel the confusion the Rule has created. It's important to know that eligibility for public benefits has not changed and many immigrants are not affected by public charge. It is also important to know that the case is still being fought in court. Don't stop using public benefits unnecessarily. If you are worried or have questions about immigration and public benefits for you or your loved ones, you can call the free, confidential ActionNYC hotline at 1-800-354-0365, or call 311 and say ‘Public Charge' to access timely and trusted information and connections to legal help. The City is here to help you make a decision that is best for you and your family.

Statement from Mayor Bill de Blasio

Immigrant New Yorkers are our neighbors, our friends, and our fellow parents. We cannot stand by while they are treated as less than human – expected to weigh putting food on the table against the need for a Green Card. The Trump Administration wants to scare us into silence, but this is New York City. We are still in court and we will not stop fighting for the rights of immigrants to feed their families.

It is important to know

  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that it will begin applying the "public charge" rule to certain applications postmarked or electronically filed on or after February 24, 2020.
  • 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.

New Yorkers with questions about "public charge" should consult with a free, safe immigration legal services provider. Call ActionNYC at 800-354-0365 and say "public charge."

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 "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 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. The Supreme Court stayed that decision, permitting the rule to go into effect for now while litigation continues. The Department of Homeland Security began implementing the new rule on February 24, 2020.

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?

Under the new "public charge" rule, which the Department of Homeland Security began implementing on February 24, 2020, the federal government 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). Use of these benefits before February 24, 2020, will not be considered.
  • 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 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 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