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  • The Advocate

The New Public Charge Rule

Have you, or someone you know, given up your access to healthcare because of the new public charge ruling? Here is some information that might help. Be sure to contact a lawyer as this information is not meant to be used in place of legal advice.

What is public charge?

Public charge is a law that seeks to determine the likelihood that someone, who is applying for admission to the United States or applying for adjustment of status, is likely to depend on government services for their support. Currently, immigration officers consider whether the individual has used Supplemental Security Income (Social Security), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Welfare), and government-funded long-term care, or is likely to use them in the future. If the immigration officer determines that the individual primarily depends on these services, then that applicant is considered a public charge and is inadmissible to the United States.

The law does not currently take into consideration the use of nutrition programs such as WIC, publicly-funded healthcare, and housing programs. However, on October 15, 2019 some of these that are not currently considered may be used under the revised law.

The New Public Charge Law

Under the re-defined law, which is set to take effect next month, applicants will be considered inadmissible to the United States or have their green card applications denied if they use certain public benefit programs for more than a total of 12-months in any 36-month period.

The use of any of the following services will be used to determine if an applicant may be considered a public charge under the new law:

1. Medicaid (or Medi-Cal in California) 2. Federal, state or local cash aid programs (eg. TANF, SSI, general assistance programs). Note that this does not include non-cash benefits of TANF such as subsidized child care and transit subsidies. 3. Long-term care at the government’s expense (eg. Nursing home or mental health institutions). Note that costs of prison incarceration is not included.

This list is not exhaustive. There are other considerations such as: 1. Family size, age, education, etc. 2. English proficiency 3. Ownership of private medical insurance 4. Medical conditions 5. Past use of immigration fee waivers

What will not be used in determining public charge?

1. Benefits received by other family members (unless it is determined that the benefits are supporting the entire family) 2. Medicaid benefits for pregnant females and persons under age 21 years 3. Emergency medical care 4. Disaster relief 5. Health services that cover immunizations, testing and treatment of the symptoms of communicable diseases, use of health clinics, short-term rehabilitation services 6. Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). In CA this is called Healthy Families Program 7. Nutrition programs including SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) aka ‘food stamps,’ WIC, the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program, and other supplementary and emergency food assistance programs 8. Housing benefits 9. Childcare services 10. Home energy assistance programs 11. Foster care and adoption assistance 12. Educational assistance for public schools and benefits under Head Start program 13. Job training 14. Community based programs such as soup kitchens, crisis counseling and intervention, short term shelter 15. Cash payments that have been earned such as: Title II Social Security benefits, government pension, and veteran’s benefits 16. Unemployment compensation

This is not an exhaustive list. There are many factors to be considered.

What does this all mean for your family’s access to healthcare?

We are aware that many persons who are seeking entry or adjustment of status are scared. They are not sure what services will make them ineligible. As a result, they are foregoing medical care for themselves and their families, sometimes to their detriment.

1. Pregnant females and mothers with children under age 21 years can still access care under Medi-Cal. They may sign up for WIC if they need it. 2. Persons needing emergency room care can still access it without repercussion. 3. Children who are born in the United States to undocumented parents may access services without fear. No need to unenroll them. 4. It is important to contact an immigration lawyer to determine what you need to do to remain eligible for a green card or admission to the USA. 5. Most importantly, know how this affects your access to healthcare. A green card is of no use to the person who dies because he did not know he could legally get the care he needed.

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