On Feb. 24, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) implemented new rules nationwide that impact immigrants who wish to become permanent or long-term residents. Since the policy change, some benefits that families receive may count against them if they apply for residency.
Called Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds, the new rule prohibits permanent residency if an individual relies on or is likely to rely on public resources for housing, food or healthcare assistance. The changes were implemented in response to a Supreme Court ruling.
Previously, persons may have been eligible for residency if they did not primarily depend on government funds. According to the USCIS, the new rule requires that a potential resident will not depend on government funds at all. A person applying for residency must demonstrate current and potential income. Non-residents already in the United States may be impacted if they continue to access government resources and wish to stay or make their residency status permanent.
What programs are included?
- Medicaid for adults over 21 (expectations are made for emergencies, pregnant women, and those who have given birth in the last 60 days)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- General Assistance programs from government agencies that give cash support or income maintenance
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or Food Stamps)
- Housing Assistance, including public housing, Section 8, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash benefits
Benefits Excluded from Public Charge
- Emergency medical assistance
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
- Medicaid for children under 21
- Disaster relief
- State, local, or tribal programs (other than cash assistance)
- Community-based programs, such as soup kitchens, crisis counseling and intervention, and short-term shelter
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) non-cash benefits
- Supplemental Nutrition for Women Infants and Children (WIC)
- School Breakfast and Lunch programs
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Transportation vouchers or services
- Pell Grants and student loans
- Childcare services
- Head Start
- Job training programs
Who is Affected?
Most individuals seeking permanent residency with a Green Card are affected. Use of public benefits may also damage a non-resident’s attempt to extend temporary residency in the U.S.
Individuals who may be exempt or eligible for a waiver
- Asylum applicants
- Refugees and asylees applying for adjustment to permanent resident status
- Amerasian Immigrants
- Individuals granted relief under the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA), or Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA)
- Individuals applying for a T or U Visa
- Individuals with a T or U Visa who are trying to become a permanent resident with a Green Card
- Applicants for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
- Certain applicants under the LIFE Act Provisions
Are there any exceptions?
The USCIS has announced that “inadmissibility based on the public charge ground is determined by the totality of the circumstances.” While use of public charge funds will count against individuals applying for residency, they are not the sole factor in the government’s decision to approve or deny residency requests. Here are additional resources:
American Immigration Lawyers Association: Public Charge Changes at USCIS, DOJ, and DOS
Reuters: “U.S. Supreme Court lets hardline Trump immigration policy take effect”
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: Public Charge