Debunking Misconceptions About the New Public Charge Rule

New York, NY—Beginning Monday, February 24, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will implement changes to the public charge rule. These changes are a significant departure from how the regulation is currently applied. The threat of the rule change has already had a chilling effect on immigrant families — many of which include U.S. citizens — who are not applying for or are actively disenrolling from government programs for fear it could impact their ability to make changes to their immigration status. Resources, including multilingual fact sheets about the new public charge rule, are available on our website here.

In response to the new public charge rule, Abbey Sussell, Public Charge Fellow, New York Immigration Coalition, said:

“While we are gravely disappointed that the rule change is moving forward, it’s important to know that eligibility for public benefits has not changed and many immigrants are not affected by public charge. So, it’s critical that individuals and families consult legal advocates who understand the rule before making any decisions about applying for immigration benefits or disenrolling or not applying for public programs that could be essential to their well-being. New Yorkers who have questions about the new rule and whether it applies to them can also receive free and confidential information from the Office for New Americans hotline at 1-800-566-7636.”

Key Facts about the New Public Charge Rule:

  • Effective date for the new Public Charge Rule is February 24, 2020.
  • New Yorkers who have questions about the new rule and whether it applies to them should contact the free and confidential Office for New Americans hotline at 1-800-566-7636 to receive more information.
  • The changes to the public charge rule mean immigrants who access certain federally-funded programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, and subsidized housing assistance could be deemed public charges and, as a result, have their applications for green cards or certain visas denied.
  • Simply being enrolled in public benefits programs does NOT necessarily mean an immigrant will be considered a public charge, but they are some of the things the government examines. Note, if affected immigrants have children who are US citizens, they can apply for these programs on their children’s behalf without putting themselves at risk. Benefits used by family members of the applicant do not count against them in their public charge determination.
  • Use of federal Medicaid, SNAP, and federal housing benefits prior to February 24, 2020, will not be held against green card applicants no matter when they apply for their green card.
  • Not all immigrants are affected by the rule, as it excludes refugees, asylees, victims of trafficking, and other protected groups. Legal permanent residents who are applying for green card renewals or citizenship are not subject to public charge. Undocumented immigrants and many people with temporary statuses are not eligible for most public benefits.
  • The rule is not retroactive and will apply only to applications filed after February 24. Applications and petitions already pending with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on February 24, or postmarked prior to the rule’s effective date, will not be subject to the updated public charge rule.
  • For more information about what the new public charge rule means for immigrants or to access multilingual fact sheets and resources visit our website.

COVID-19 Resources

Find resources for immigrant New Yorkers during the COVID-19 pandemic here