Public Charge (Immigrant Rights)
If you are applying for immigration status as a lawful permanent resident (LPR) or to enter the U.S. on a visa, you may be required to pass a “public charge” test.
Immigration officials at USCIS have announced that immigrants can seek testing, treatment, and prevention of COVID-19 without fearing immigration consequences due to public charge.
Please read below for information about the public charge rule.
WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defines public charge as “an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either receipt of pubic cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.”
This means a person is considered to be a “public charge” if they will likely need government benefits.
The public charge test only applies to immigrants in three categories:
- Non-citizens applying to be “admitted,” meaning applying for a visa;
- Non-citizens applying to adjust their status to become Lawful Permanent Resident (green card holder); and
- Lawful Permanent Residents who leave the U.S. for 180 consecutive days and want to come back.
The public charge test does not apply to:
- Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders) applying to become citizens
- Victims of trafficking and other serious crimes (T Visa, U Visa, VAWA)
- Special Immigrant Juveniles
- Certain parolees
- Some other humanitarian immigrants
Only two (2) categories of public benefit programs count towards determining if you pass the public charge test:
- Cash assistance such as TANF and SSI
- Long-term care at government expense such as nursing home or inpatient mental health care
Examples of benefits that are not considered include:
- Benefits not listed in the rule
- Benefits received by a family member
- Benefits received in another country
- Benefits received by active duty service members, their spouses and children
- Non-cash assistance state and local programs
- Homeless or domestic violence shelters
- Medicaid and other health insurance and health services
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – food stamps)
- Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Free or reduced school breakfast or lunch programs
- Housing assistance
- Energy assistance
- Child care services
- Federal Earned Income Tax Credits and Federal Child Tax Credits
- Student Loans
- Educational assistance including Head Start
- Emergency disaster relief
- Foster care and adoption assistance
- In-kind community-based programs, services, or assistance
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO?
Find Out if You are Subject to the Public Charge Test BEFORE Applying for Any Type of Immigration Status
There are resources to help you determine if the public charge test applies to you or your family:
The best way to know if you are subject to the public charge test is to speak with a lawyer who specializes in immigration about your specific set of circumstances. CLSMF’s HELPline attorneys do not give advice regarding immigration matters. To find an attorney who may be able to assist, contact the Florida Bar Referral Service online or by phone at 800-342-8011.
WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE TAKING ACTION?
You can find additional information about the public charge rule at the following websites: