“Public Charge” is a legal term used in immigration law. It is part of a screening process used by U.S. immigration officials primarily when someone is applying for lawful permanent residence (LPR/“green card” status). If someone is considered a public charge, then they won’t be able to get a green card, unless they are able to post a public charge bond.
Due to a combination of litigation, including our cases, MRNY v. Cuccinelli (against the DHS public charge rule) and MRNY v. Pompeo (against the Department of State public charge rule, and related policies), and Biden Administration policy changes, neither of the public charge rules adopted by the Trump Administration are in effect. Instead, USCIS is again applying the version of the public charge rule contained within the 1999 Federal Guidance.
The public charge rule applies to the following groups:
Note: Anyone planning to apply for a green card; who is trying to change/extend their nonimmigrant visa; or who already has a green card and is planning to travel abroad for more than 180 days in a row or has certain criminal convictions, should learn about public charge unless exempt (see below).
People in the categories listed below DO NOT need to worry about being denied a green card because of public charge.
People who are not applying for a green card:
People who may be applying for a green card, but are exempt from public charge:
Under the current rules receipt of the following benefits are treated negatively:
a. Cash assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
b. Government funded long-term institutional care;
No. No medical care available in New York related to COVID-19 and any other condition counts against a person subject to public charge. Based on prior experience, however, we expect that many noncitizens will be concerned about the public charge consequences of receiving treatment even if they are not actually subject to public charge review.
For assistance, call our Immigration Helpline at 844-955-3425 from Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
The information in this document has been prepared by The Legal Aid Society for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. You should not act upon any information without retaining professional legal counsel.
Last Updated: 15 June 2021
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