What is a "Public Charge?"
“Public charge” refers to a non-US citizen who is likely to become “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance, or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.”
In determining whether an alien is subject to public charge inadmissibility, a number of factors must be considered, including age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, and skills. No single factor will determine whether an individual is a public charge, other than the lack of an affidavit of support, if it is so required.
What is the Consequence of Being a Public Charge?
The Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) provides that an individual who is likely at any time to become a public charge and is inadmissible to the United States and ineligble to become a legal permanent resident.
What Public Benefits May Trigger Being a Public Charge?
Cash assistance for income maintenance includes Supplemental Security Income (SSI), cash assistance from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and State or local cash assistance programs for income maintenance, often called “General Assistance” programs. Acceptance of these forms of public cash assistance could make a non-citizen inadmissible as a public charge, if all other criteria are met. However, the mere receipt of these benefits does not automatically make an individual inadmissible, ineligible to adjust status to lawful permanent resident, or deportable on public charge grounds. Each determination is made on a case-by-case basis in the context of the totality of the circumstances.
What Public Benefits Do Not Trigger Being a Public Charge?
The accepted of the following public benefits does not make the recipient being a public charge:
- Medicaid and other health insurance and health services (including public assistance for immunizations and for testing and treatment of symptoms of communicable diseases, use of health clinics, short-term rehabilitation services, prenatal care, and emergency medical services) other than support for long-term institutional care.
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
- Nutrition programs, including Food Stamps, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program, and other supplementary and emergency food assistance programs.
- Housing benefits.
- Child care services
- Energy assistance, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP
- Emergency disaster relief.
- Foster care and adoption assistance.
- Educational assistance (such as attending public school), including benefits under the Head Start Act and aid for elementary, secondary, or higher education.
- Job training programs.
- In-kind, community-based programs, services, or assistance (such as soup kitchens, crisis counseling and intervention, and short-term shelter).
- Non cash benefits under TANF such as subsidized child care or transit subsidies.
- Cash payments that have been earned, such as Title II Social Security benefits, government pensions, and veterans’ benefits, among other forms of earned benefits, do not support a public charge determination.
- Unemployment compensation is also not considered for public charge purposes.