Changes to the Public Charge Rule

Resources

We are in the process of updating our Public Charge materials to reflect recent court decisions. On Sept. 11, 2020, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the federal court injunction issued on July 29, 2020 that temporarily blocked the Public Charge rule from taking effect during the COVID-19 pandemic. This means the Trump Administration's changes to the Public Charge rule can take effect again across the country. Please check back soon for our updated multilingual FAQ documents and one-pagers. For other updated resources, download them directly from the national Protecting Immigrant Families campaign. To join the campaign listserv, go here.

Public Charge Trainings

To request a training at your organization about Public Charge and COVID resources, fill out this training request form. You can also find our scheduled trainings for service providers on our website.

Immigrant Eligibility for Public Benefits Chart

The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) and the Empire Justice Center collaborated to create a resource for service providers supporting noncitizens in accessing public benefits and assessing the Public Charge implications. Click here to access the benefits chart.

Background

On Sept. 11, 2020, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the federal court injunction issued on July 29, 2020 that temporarily blocked the Public Charge rule from taking effect during the COVID-19 pandemic. This means the Trump Administration's changes to the Public Charge rule can take effect again across the country. On July 29, 2020, Judge George Daniels, a U.S. District Court Judge in Manhattan, had issued a nationwide injunction temporarily halting the Trump administration’s changes to the Public Charge rule. Judge Daniel’s decision came after New York State Attorney General Letitia James and immigrant rights groups requested an injunction of the new rule in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ruling was a response to immigrant advocates’ arguments that the Public Charge rule in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic had caused additional harms. Advocates contended the Trump administration’s rule changes forced immigrant families to choose between accessing food, housing and healthcare programs, and obtaining certain visas or green cards. Although the changes only applied to certain categories of immigrants, the administration’s changes incited widespread fear in immigrant communities. Call the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636 for suggestions about where to get legal advice. The hotline is free and anonymous, and help is available in many languages.

What is a “public charge?”

An immigrant who uses certain kinds of benefits from the government might be considered a “public charge” by the government. This can affect certain immigrants’ immigration status. Utilizing government programs alone does not make a person a public charge.

When does the government decide if someone is a “public charge”?

It happens when someone is applying for a green card. When an immigrant applies for citizenship the government does NOT check if the person is a “public charge.”

Immigrants with some statuses can apply for a green card or visa WITHOUT “public charge” scrutiny. These include:

  • Refugees and asylees
  • Victims of serious crimes (like U visa holders)
  • VAWA self-petitioners (for people who are victims of violence committed by family members)
  • Special immigrant juveniles (SIJS)
  • Some other immigrants

Which programs might put someone at risk of being considered a “public charge”?

The only government programs that can now be considered in a person’s Public Charge test are:

  • Cash assistance (like TANF or SSI)
  • SNAP (food stamps)
  • Federal Medicaid (NOT New York State Medicaid, the Essential Plan, Emergency Medicaid, H+H Options, Child Health Plus, or Medicaid for pregnant women and children)
  • Section 8 and public housing

Being enrolled in these programs does NOT necessarily mean you will be considered a public charge, but they are some of the things the government looks at.

Most government programs are NOT included in the public charge test and are safe to use. These include:

  • Emergency Medicaid
  • New York State Medicaid
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Essential Plan
  • H+H Options
  • Pandemic-EBT
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • Food banks, health clinics, hospitals and homeless shelters
  • Unemployment Insurance
  • One-time cash stimulus payments
  • COVID rent relief programs
  • … and many more

Testing, evaluation and treatment for COVID-19 will NOT put someone at risk of being a “public charge.” Other family members’ use of public benefits will not affect an immigrant’s green card application. There is no benefit to disenrolling U.S. citizens or other eligible family members from health and nutrition programs.

What should concerned community members do?

Immigrant families should seek the care they need during this difficult time. It is safe and smart to see the doctor if they need care, and people can still see a doctor without health insurance. If community members have questions about “public charge” related to an existing or future immigration application, they should consult an immigration lawyer. Call the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636 for suggestions about where to get legal advice. The hotline is free and anonymous, and help is available in many languages.

For questions related to public charge, contact the NYIC Public Charge Fellow at [email protected].

COVID-19 Resources

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