What is public charge and how will it affect me?

Are you applying for a US visa, an extension to a visa, a green card, or change of status? This page will help you understand the public charge rule and how it may affect you.


man sitting on steps
Photo: iStock/Beto

Public charge update September 22, 2020

A statement on the USCIS website says that USCIS will apply the public charge rule to all applications received after February 24, 2020. New and current applications will need to include Form I-944.

What does this ruling mean for immigrants applying for green cards or visa extensions?

This ruling means many public benefits will be counted against you when you apply for a green card or to extend a visa. You can read more details about public charge below.

What about public charge and COVID-19?

Public benefits
If you receive cash benefits, such as unemployment benefit, they will not be counted as a public charge if you can show they are because of the COVID-19.

Healthcare
If you need to use public benefits to get medical care for COVID-19 or other infectious diseases, it will be not be counted against you as a public charge.

You can read about these in more detail on the USCIS public charge page. Go down to the second “Alert”.

Who or what is a public charge?

Many people in the USA get help from the government for basic needs. Public charge is the term used for a person who is receiving government help, which is sometimes called “public benefits.”

The Department of Homeland Security has made a new rule. It is called the public charge rule

The information on this page comes from USCIS and other trusted sources. It is intended for guidance and is updated as often as possible. USAHello does not give legal advice, nor are any of our materials intended to be taken as legal advice. If you are looking for a free or low-cost lawyer or legal help, we can help you find free and low-cost legal services.