Public Charge

On August 14, 2019 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published the final rule regarding inadmissibility based on public charge considerations. Although immigration law has long contained provisions allowing the agency to deny residence for those immigrants who were likely to become a public charge, the new rule greatly expands the definition of public charge and at the same time extends the items which USCIS officers will consider in that determination. 

Due to federal litigation the rule did not go into effect until February 24, 2020. This new rule applies to most applicants for immigrant or nonimmigrant visas abroad and to almost all applicants for lawful permanent residence within the United States. Under the new rule applicants must demonstrate that they are not likely to become a public charge at any time. 

Being a public charge is defined by the agency as a person who is more likely than not at in time in the future to receive one or more of the designated public benefits. Designated public benefits only include those benefits received directly by the applicant for the applicant’s own benefit or where the applicant is listed as a beneficiary of a public benefit.

Policy to Know

• Any federal, state, local, or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance   

• Supplemental Security Income (SSI) 

• Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) 

• Federal, state or local cash benefit programs for income maintenance (often called “General Assistance” in the state context, but which may exist under other names) 

• Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or formerly called “Food Stamps”) 

• Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program 

• Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation)  

• Public Housing under section 9 the Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C. §1437 et seq.

• Federally funded Medicaid (with certain exclusions)

In addition to having received public benefits, the agency will consider the factors set forth in 8 CFR §212.22 to make a determination of likely receipt of benefits in the totality of the circumstances. These factors include:

• Age; 

• Health; 

• Family status; 

• Assets, resources, and financial status; 

• Education and skills; 

• Prospective immigration status; 

• Expected period of admission; and  

• Sufficient Form I-864, when required under section INA §212(a)(4)(C) or (D). 


Although this rule adds substantial amounts of work and documentation required for an applicant, it does not mean you are automatically ineligible for an immigration benefit, even if you have received public benefits in the past. MyRights Immigration Law Firm can help you present your entire case with complete and correct documentation, including documentation to meet the requirements of this rule.

Additional Resources

Contact Us Today!

Please schedule an appointment to discuss your individual case with one of our immigration attorneys.