Public Charge

ALERT: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began applying the new public charge rule on February 24, 2020. On December 2, 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that would block the new public regulation in California, the District of Columbia and 17 other states. This order would prevent immigration officers from applying the new public charge rule, but it is not yet final. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has indicated that it is reviewing the December 2, 2020 decision, and it may seek review of the decision. Separate litigation currently prevents the Department of State from applying its new public charge rule at U.S. consulates and embassies abroad.

This is not the first time a court has issued an order blocking the public charge rule. The incoming Biden Administration has also committed to undoing the new public charge rule, though the timeframe for such action is uncertain.  Even if the new public charge rule remains in place for some additional time, keep in mind the following:

  • Many immigrants are not subject to the public charge test. The test does not apply to refugees, asylees, special immigrant juveniles, and persons applying for immigration status as survivors of trafficking, domestic violence and other serious crimes.
  • There is no public charge test when a legal permanent resident applies for citizenship or renews a green card. Legal permanent residents are only subject to the public charge rule when returning to the U.S. after remaining abroad for 180 days or more, or when returning from abroad with certain criminal history.
  • Many public benefits are not considered. State and locally funded health care programs such as MyHealth L.A. are not included in the public charge test. Nutritional programs like WIC, school lunches, food pantries and food banks, shelters, child care assistance, and many other programs are not considered. Disability, paid family leave, and unemployment insurance are considered earned benefits (a person only qualifies if they paid into the system) – accessing those benefits will not count against a person in the public charge test.

For information about the status of the public charge rule and questions about public benefits considered under the rule, you may contact the Office of Immigrant Affairs at: (800) 593-8222.

Learn more about Public Charge

Rigo Reyes interview with Spectrum
Watch our Executive Director, Rigo Reyes, talk about Public Charge with Spectrum News.