2019 Public Charge Update

Last week, the Trump administration published their final public charge rule, which if implemented may affect individuals seeking permanent resident status in the United States. This policy is designed to be confusing and cause fear, and it is important to stay informed, remain calm, and know your rights.

What are the changes to the public charge policy?

Immigration officials uses the “public charge test” to decide whether a person can enter the U.S. or get a green card (Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status). The officials look at all of a person’s circumstances, including income, employment, health, education, skills as well as English proficiency, and family situation. Officials can also look at whether a person has used specific public benefits.

Under the new public charge test, immigration officials will look more closely at these circumstances to see if a person would be considered a “public charge”. Programs considered as part of the new public charge test are:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, “EBT” or “Food Stamps”)
  • Federal Public Housing and Section 8 assistance
  • Medicaid (except for emergency services, children under 21 years, pregnant women, and new mothers)
  • Cash assistance programs (like SSI, TANF, General Assistance)

Services that are not listed above will not be counted in the new public charge test. WIC, CHIP, school lunches, food banks, shelters, disaster relief, emergency medical assistance and any other benefit not specifically listed in the proposed rule are safe to use if you are eligible.


  • Use of public benefits alone will not make you a public charge. We encourage you to learn more about your situation before making decisions that may harm you or your family.
  • Every situation is different. Please consult with an immigration attorney if you have questions about your own case.

Does this test apply to everyone?

No. The public charge test does not apply to:

  • Those who are applying for or already have the following statuses: Refugees; asylees; survivors of trafficking, domestic violence, or other serious crimes (T or U visa applicants/holders); VAWA self-petitioners; special immigrant juveniles; and certain people paroled into the U.S.
  • Green card holders who are applying for U.S. citizenship.

What If I Already Submitted My Immigration Application?

The public charge test will only be used on immigration applications submitted on or after October 15, 2019.

What If I Am Currently Using Public Benefits?

Use of public benefits will not automatically make you a public charge. Immigration officials must look at all your circumstances in determining whether you are likely to become a public charge in the future. This includes your age, health, income, assets, resources, education/skills, family you must support, and family who will support you.

Positive factors, like having a job or health insurance, can be weighed against negative factors, like having used certain benefits or having a health condition. Either way, you will have a chance to show why you are not likely to rely on certain benefits in the future.

What If I Used The Benefits Listed Above In The Past?

The rule does not consider any newly listed benefits that are used before October 15, 2019. Benefits that were previously excluded from the public charge test (such as Medicaid and SNAP) will only be considered if they are received after October 15, 2019.

What If Other Members Of My Family Use Or Have Used These Benefits?

Benefits used by other family members will not be counted unless the family members are also applying for a green card.

How does this impact my financial aid?

The rule does not include public education benefits such as federal or state-based financial aid. Federal financial aid (such as Pell Grants and student loans) and state-based financial aid (such as the California Dream Act, Cal grants, institutional grants, dream loans, scholarships) are not included in the new public charge rule and individuals should take advantage of available financial aid programs that will help them get an education.

It’s not over—we still have a chance to stop the rule and advocates are using every tool at their disposal to stop this rule from taking effect. 14 states including California have filed a lawsuit against this rule so far. Please urge your Members of Congress to speak out against the new public charge.