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.


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Public charge updates

September 2020 update

A statement on the USCIS website says that USCIS will apply the old (1999) standards during the pandemic. Under the older standards, public benefits such as SNAP (food stamps), housing vouchers, and Medicaid are not considered a public charge.

There may be a new statement from USCIS or a new ruling from a judge soon. We will update this page as soon as there is new information.

July 2020: Public charge must stop for now.

A federal judge in New York ruled that public charge must not be used during the COVID-19 pandemic. The rule says immigrants who have received benefits, such as Medicaid or food stamps, may be turned down when they apply to be permanent residents. So people who need help during the pandemic are afraid to get the help they need. The judge said that this is dangerous for everyone because it means more people will get infected.

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

This ruling means many public benefits will not be counted against you when you apply for a green card or to extend a visa. Public benefits such as SNAP (food stamps), housing vouchers, and Medicaid are not considered a public charge while the COVID-19 health emergency continues. If you receive cash benefits, such as unemployment benefit, they may be counted as a public charge, but not if you can show they are because of the COVID-19. Read the statement from USCIS about the ruling.

March 2020: USCIS says that healthcare for coronavirus is not a public charge.

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 in your immigration application. You can read more details in English or in Spanish.

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.