There Are New Federal “Public Charge” Rules Going Into Effect Next Week: Here’s What You Need to Know

In August 2019, the Trump Administration finalized new rules that expand the criteria for determining whether certain immigrants would be considered a “public charge” upon approval of permanent residency. While appeals of these new expanded rules make their way through the courts, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the policy may take effect beginning February 24, 2020. As the changing rules can be confusing for consumers and assisters, we’ve updated our Navigator Resource Guide to help break it down.

What’s a “public charge”?

A public charge is a determination made by the Department of Homeland Security that an immigrant applying for permanent resident status (green card) would become primarily dependent on government assistance upon approval, or, in other words, become a “public charge.” The public charge determination only applies to applications submitted on or after February 24, 2020 for those who are:

  • Seeking to obtain a green card
  • A green card holder that has lived outside the U.S. for at least six months
  • Seeking to legally enter the U.S.
  • Seeking to extend their stay
  • Seeking to legally change visa types

Does enrollment in the Marketplace with premium tax credits count for a public charge determination?

No. Upon implementation of the Trump administration rule, immigrants subject to the public charge determination test may place their immigration status at elevated risk if using certain public benefits:

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

The rule does not take into account an immigrant’s citizen family members’ use of public benefits. Applying and/or enrolling into marketplace coverage with premium tax credits and cost sharing are exempted from the public charge determination test.

Many immigrants are exempt from a public charge determination. Please see a qualified immigration lawyer or use the Keep Your Benefits Guide (available in English, Spanish, and Chinese) to check if you may be subject to a public charge determination. The Guide is free and does not ask for any personal information.

Other helpful resources:

Keep Your Benefits: Who is Affected by the Public Charge Rule? (Disponible en español)

Protect Immigrant Families: Specialized Resources for Advocates and Service Providers

Protect Immigrant Families: Know Your Rights (Disponsible en español)

The U.S. State Department applies different rules if you have your interview outside of the U.S. If this is the case for you, please talk to a qualified immigration lawyer, or visit for more information. If you need immigration assistance, please call the Office for New Americans at 1-800-566-7636 to be connected to free or low-cost, high-quality legal representation/counseling services.


Editor’s Note: This blog was edited on February 24, 2020 due to a U.S. Supreme Court decision to stay the injunction of the new public charge rules in Illinois while the case works through the court system.

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The opinions expressed here are solely those of the individual blog post authors and do not represent the views of Georgetown University, the Center on Health Insurance Reforms, any organization that the author is affiliated with, or the opinions of any other author who publishes on this blog.