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Public Charge and Immigration

On September 8, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a new Final Rule on Public Charge, to become effective December 23, 2022. It formally reverses the prior Administration's rule and restores the decades-long, historical understanding of a "public charge." This means that supplemental health benefits such as Medicaid (Medi-Cal) and nutritional assistance such as SNAP (CalFresh) for which immigrants may qualify will not be considered as part of the public charge inadmissibility determination. The new rule also clarifies that DHS will not consider in public charge determinations benefits received by family members other than the applicant.

Medical testing, treatment and preventive services for COVID-19, including vaccines, are not considered for public charge purposes.

Public charge does not apply to all immigrants or all benefit programs. Each situation is different and there are many benefits not considered in the public charge assessment. Available to you are community agencies and resources that can provide information and advice specific to you and your family situation. Click on the tabs below for the latest updates regarding public charge.

We advise anyone concerned about their immigration circumstance to review the rule and to talk to a legal expert. CCHS and its employees cannot offer legal advice.

What is Public Charge
Who is not affected
Legal resources

  • What is Public Charge

    Public charge is a term used in immigration law to refer to a person who is primarily dependent on the government for support. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) applies a public charge test when (1) a person applies to enter the U.S. or (2) when a person applies to adjust immigration status to become a lawful permanent resident (to get a green card).

    An applicant considered likely to become a "public charge" is more likely than not to have their application denied. Each situation is different, and the public charge test does not apply to all immigrants. If you use one of these programs and believe the public charge rules may affect you, we strongly encourage you to seek advice from an attorney or immigration expert before dropping a benefit that you and your family need.

    What public benefits are considered in a public charge test?
    1. Cash assistance programs that provide on-going payments. Examples include "SSI," "TANF," and "General Assistance."
    2. Long-term institutional care, like a nursing home, at government expense.

  • Who is not affected

    For those who need to take the public charge determination, the use of the following programs will NOT be considered during a public charge determination:

    • Medi-Cal Services
    • Women, Infants & Children (WIC) Program
    • Food and nutrition programs, including SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or "food stamps") or CalFresh are not considered.
    • Housing programs, such as public housing and section 8 are not considered.
    • Pandemic economic impact payments (stimulus checks)

    Public Charge does NOT apply to:

    • Humanitarian immigrants such as refugees, asylees, domestic violence survivors, trafficking, and other serious crimes
    • Special immigrant juveniles
    • Certain individuals paroled into the U.S.
    • U.S. Citizenship applicants
    • Green card renewal
    • DACA, TPS or DED (initial applications and renewal)

  • Resources

  • Legal resources