Yes, as of February 24, 2020, but the Rule only applies to people who are both subject to public charge (see below) and who submit applications postmarked on or after February 24, 2020, for green cards or to change/extend non-immigrant visas.
“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.
Is there a new public charge Rule in effect?
Who is subject to the new public charge rule?
The public charge rule applies to the following groups:
- People in the U.S. who are in the process of applying for green card status through a family member, employer, or through the Diversity Visa lottery.
- People who already have a green card but who are seeking to re-enter the U.S. after traveling abroad either (a) for more than 180 days consecutively, or (b) with certain criminal convictions (or both).
- People applying to change or extend their nonimmigrant visas.
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).
Who does NOT have to worry about being denied a Green Card due to public charge?
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:
- U.S. citizens, or people applying to become a citizen through naturalization.
- People who already have their green card (including people who have conditional status) (unless traveling abroad for more than 180 days or with certain criminal convictions).
- LPRs traveling abroad for fewer than 180 days in a row (or who have no criminal convictions).
- People with a non-immigrant visa, or who lack any status, and do NOT plan to apply for a green card in the next 36 months and do NOT plan to change or extend their non-immigrant visas. (Consult a lawyer if you are unsure whether you would be eligible to apply for a green card.)
People who may be applying for a green card, but are exempt from public charge:
- Refugees, asylees, and people seeking cancellation of removal.
- Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJ); Special Immigrant Visa Holders (Afghan or Iraqi nationals who helped the U.S.).
- VAWA, U, and T Visa applicants and holders.
- Persons eligible to adjust under the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), Nicaraguan Adjustment & Central American Relief Act (NACARA), Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA), or Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act.
Which benefits are treated negatively under the new public charge rule?
Under the new Rule receipt of the following benefits are treated negatively:
a. Cash assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
b. Government funded long-term institutional care;
c. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP);
d. Federally-funded Medicaid for a very narrow group of immigrants (State-funded Medicaid, Essential Plan, Child Health Plus, NYC Care and other forms of hospital financial assistance do NOT count);
e. New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)/public housing or Section 8.
Will any benefits used BEFORE February 24, 2020 count against applicants subject to public charge?
Yes. Categories (a) and (b), above, used BEFORE February 24, 2020 will count against applicants. Benefits in categories (c)-(e) will only count negatively (depending on the duration of use) if used ON or AFTER February 24, 2020.
What other factors put an applicant at risk of being found a public charge?
Many intending immigrants and nonimmigrants who are subject to public charge are not eligible for the benefits listed above, but that does not mean that they are not at risk of a public charge finding anyway. The characteristics that could result in a public charge finding include the following:
- Having income less than 125% of the poverty level;
- Being unemployed;
- Being under age 18 or over age 61;
- Having a disability;
- Having debt or a low credit score;
- Having limited English proficiency.
Does COVID-19 testing and treatment raise the risk of becoming a public charge?
No. We are not aware of any medical care available in New York related to COVID-19 that would count against a person subject to public charge, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has said that COVID-19 related care will not count. Immigrant families should seek the medical care they need. 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.
Public charge factsheet translations
This information, and information for attorneys, is also available for download:
Read our updated Frequently Asked Questions – English
Read our updated Frequently Asked Questions – Arabic
Read our updated Frequently Asked Questions – Bengali
Read our updated Frequently Asked Questions – Chinese Simplified
Read our updated Frequently Asked Questions – Chinese Traditional
Read our updated Frequently Asked Questions – Farsi
Read our updated Frequently Asked Questions – French
Read our updated Frequently Asked Questions – Haitian Creole
Read our updated Frequently Asked Questions – Hindi
Read our updated Frequently Asked Questions – Korean
Read our updated Frequently Asked Questions – Nepali
Read our updated Frequently Asked Questions – Punjabi
Read our updated Frequently Asked Questions – Russian
Read our updated Frequently Asked Questions – Spanish
Read our updated Frequently Asked Questions – Urdu
Public charge screening tool
The Legal Aid Society, Make the Road New York, and the Empire Justice Center jointly developed a screening tool that can be used to make a preliminary determination about whether public charge applies to your client.
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.