• October 4, 2019

Planned Changes to the Public Charge Test

Planned Changes to the Public Charge Test

Planned Changes to the Public Charge Test 150 150 Office of Immigrant Affairs


Federal court judges in California and several other states have ordered that the Department of Homeland Security cannot implement and enforce the Final Rule on Public Charge Inadmissibility (Final Rule), which was set to go into effect on October 15, 2019. The court orders also postpone the effective date of the Final Rule until the cases are fully resolved, which could take months. This means that the current Public Charge Rule (without the recently adopted changes related to Medi-Cal, CalFresh, and federal housing programs, among other things) remains in effect until further notice.

If you have questions about how public charge could impact your immigration status, you should speak to your immigration lawyer. If you do not have one, you may contact the Los Angeles County Office of Immigrant Affairs at 1-800-593-8222 to be connected to free or low-cost immigration legal aid.


What changes is the federal government planning to make to the “public charge” test and when will they take effect?

The Department of Homeland Security has made two big changes to the “public charge” test, which will go into effect on October 15, 2019, unless a lawsuit prevents implementation:

In addition to looking at use of cash assistance programs such as CalWORKs, General Relief (GR), SSI, or the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants, and Long Term Care Medi-Cal, beginning on October 15, 2019, immigration officials will also consider use of non-cash public benefits, including:

CalFresh (food stamps);

Medi-Cal (federally funded), except for benefits for youth under 21 and pregnant women through 60 days post-pregnancy, emergency services, Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act benefits, and school-based services or benefits;

Section 8 voucher programs and rental assistance; and

Public Housing.

The “public charge” test will apply to individuals with certain visas already in the U.S. who are applying to extend their stay or change their visa status (e.g., updating a student visa to an employment visa).

Are Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Head Start included in the “public charge” test?

No. WIC, CHIP, and Head Start are not considered under current or planned “public charge” rules.

Do the planned changes to the “public charge” test affect my eligibility for health, housing, or nutrition programs?

No. The planned changes will not affect your eligibility for benefits. Individuals who are currently eligible for or enrolled in public benefits may continue to apply for or receive health services, nutrition benefits, housing programs, or other services if they choose to do so.

I’m applying for my green card, but my child receives public benefits.  Should I cancel my child’s benefits because of “public charge”?

The “public charge” test only looks at benefits that YOU use, not benefits used by your child or other family members.