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What is public charge?

“Public charge” is a ground of inadmissibility. Grounds of inadmissibility are reasons that a person could be denied a green card, visa, or admission into the United States. In deciding whether to grant an applicant a green card or a visa, an immigration officer must decide whether that person is likely to become dependent on certain government benefits in the future.

Who is affected?

The new public charge guidelines affect people who are applying for admission to the U.S. or for lawful permanent residence. The guidelines do not apply to humanitarian immigrants such as refugees; asylees; survivors of domestic violence, trafficking, and other serious crimes; special immigrant juveniles; and certain individuals paroled into the U.S. The guidelines also do not apply to individuals applying for naturalization.

What benefits are considered in making a public charge determination?

The government will look at whether the applicant received federally funded Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP” or food stamps), cash assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Section 8 housing assistance and federally subsidized housing.

Can my family members receive public assistance?

Benefits received by an applicant’s family members will not be considered in the public charge determination. Additionally, Medicaid received by applicants while under age 21, while pregnant (and up to 60 days after pregnancy), or during an emergency are not considered.

If I use Medicaid or food stamps, will I definitely be found to be a public charge?

Receipt of benefits is only one factor that the government will look at. The government will also consider the applicant’s age, health, household size, education, employment, credit score, and English proficiency.

Moreover, if an applicant receives benefits during the coronavirus lockdown, the applicant can write a statement to include with their application, explaining the reason for their limited use of public benefits.

Will getting tested for coronavirus affect whether I’m considered a public charge?

No. Any health service that you take advantage of related to the coronavirus will not be considered in deciding whether you are a public charge. Therefore, all immigrants should take advantage of any testing, screening or treatment available to the general public without fear of that affecting their immigration application even if the health service is provided free to the public or paid for by Medicaid.

Immigrants and their families can continue to seek services at community health centers, regardless of their immigration status, and at a reduced cost or free of charge, depending on their income. To find the nearest health center, go to

Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

Unemployment benefits differ depending on what state you live in. Generally, however, unemployment benefits are available to individuals who have a right to work and who have earned sufficient hours over the past several work quarters. You are eligible for unemployment benefits only if you have a current work permit or have been granted asylum.

Will receiving unemployment affect whether I’m considered a public charge?

No. Unemployment benefits are not considered ‘public benefits.’ Therefore, receipt of unemployment benefits does not affect whether USCIS will consider you a public charge.

Will I receive a check from the federal stimulus plan?

Stimulus checks will only be sent out to individuals who have a Social Security number. If the taxpayer, spouse or child has an ITIN number, they will not be eligible for the stimulus check.

There are many scams on the internet regarding the stimulus payment. Remember, the IRS will not call, text you, email you or contact you on social media asking for personal or bank account information – even related to the economic impact payments.

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