Frequently Asked Questions About the Public Charge Rule
- Read about the Public Charge Rule during COVID-19
- What is the public charge rule? (PDF): English | Spanish
What is a public charge?
A public charge is a non-citizen who gets certain public benefits for more than 12 months within any 36-month period. If you receive two different benefits in one month, that will be counted as two months toward the 12-month total. For example, if you were to get SNAP (food stamps) and Medicaid (HUSKY) in the same month, this would be counted as two months towards the 12-month total.
If the government considers you likely to be a public charge at any time in the future, you can be denied
- admission into the U.S., or
- a green card (also known as Lawful Permanent Resident status).
Under the rule, USCIS will look at these factors to decide if you are likely to be a public charge:
- your age;
- your health;
- your family status;
- your education and skills;
- your assets, resources, and financial status; and
- whether you have gotten public benefits in the past.
USCIS could decide that you are likely to become a public charge, based on the other factors listed above, even if you never received any public benefits in the past.
Under new rule, a public benefit includes the following:
- Any federal, state, local, or tribal cash assistance, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or any other cash benefit program;
- SNAP (food stamps);
- Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program;
- Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation);
- Public housing under Section 9 of the U.S. Housing Act;
- Medicaid (HUSKY), with certain exceptions.*
*Getting Medicaid (HUSKY) is not considered a public charge for anyone who is under age 21 or pregnant.
USCIS will not consider any public benefits received prior to the new rule’s effective date of February 24, 2020.
Who does the public charge rule apply to?
The rule only applies to people applying for green cards on certain grounds and people seeking admission to the U.S. from abroad. The public charge rule does not apply if
- you are applying for citizenship;
- you already have a green card (you’re already a Lawful Permanent Resident), unless you leave the country without permission for more than 180 days at one time and return ;
- you are renewing your green card;
- you are replacing your lost or stolen green card;
- you are a naturalized citizen;
- you are applying for a green card based on an approved U Visa or T Visa;
- you are applying for a green card based on an approved VAWA Self-Petition;
- you are applying for a green card based on an approved Special Immigrant Juvenile Petition; or
- you are a refugee or asylee.
If you are in one of these categories, you can use ANY benefits you qualify for, including cash aid, health care, food programs, and other non-cash programs. This has been true for both the prior rule and the current rule.
The rule also affects requests to extend a non-immigrant visa or to change your non-immigrant status. An example of a request to extend a non-immigrant visa would be asking to stay longer on a visitor’s visa. An example of a request to change status would be asking to change from a student visa to an employment visa. Under the new rule, USCIS would not consider if you are more likely than not to be a public charge in the future. Instead, they will only look at whether you have gotten public benefits for more than 12 months in the 36-month period since you obtained nonimmigrant status.
Does this rule mean I could be deported as a public charge?
The new rule does not change the rules about being deported. 
It is extremely rare that an individual could be deported solely on the grounds of public charge.
Should I stop any Medicaid (HUSKY), SNAP (food stamps), or housing assistance benefits that I am getting now?
If you are unsure if you should keep getting benefits, you should talk to an immigration attorney. Each situation is different and it’s best to discuss your situation with an attorney if you can.
You can also call the Greater Hartford Legal Information Line for free if you are a low-income resident of greater Hartford at 860-541-5070, or call Statewide Legal Services at 1-800-453-3320 if you live outside the greater Hartford area.
NOTE: USCIS will not consider SNAP, HUSKY or housing benefits received before the rule’s effective date of February 24, 2020. USCIS will consider TANF (cash) and/or SSI that you may have received prior to February 24, 2020in its public charge determination.
What if my child gets Medicaid (HUSKY) health coverage?
The government will not consider your child’s use of Medicaid (HUSKY) in your application for a green card. Children who are U.S. citizens are not subject to the public charge rule. Children who are Lawful Permanent Residents are also not subject to the public charge rule unless they leave the country for more than 180 days at a time and return. 
Children who are applying for a green card are subject to the new rule. However, a child’s use of Medicaid (HUSKY) will not be counted against them. A child’s use of public benefits other than Medicaid (HUSKY) will be counted against them.
What benefits are not included under the public charge rule?
Using these benefits will not hurt your chances of getting a green card:
Disaster relief; emergency medical assistance; state, local, or tribal programs (other than cash assistance) that are not federal; benefits received by your family members; education; child development (such as Head Start or Early Head Start); employment and job training programs; transportation vouchers or non-cash transportation services; federal earned income tax credit; child tax credit; student loans; energy assistance; free and reduced school lunch; WIC; Medicaid for children and pregnant women; and any other benefit not specifically listed in the proposed rule.
What if I need benefits because of the coronavirus?
USCIS will not consider testing, treatment, or preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19 as part of the test they use to determine if someone is a public charge, even if such treatment is provided or paid for by one or more public benefits (e.g. federally-funded Medicaid).
USCIS will still consider receipt of other benefits during this period. However, if you are subject to the public charge rule and had to rely on public benefits during the COVID-19 outbreak, you can give USCIS an explanation of why you had to use benefits and provide evidence to support your explanation. For example, if your work place, school, or university shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, you can include a statement with your green card application explaining how this shut down affected your circumstances. USCIS considers many factors when deciding whether you are a public charge, such as your age, skills, education, health, and receipt of benefits.
NOTE: Receipt of stimulus funds under the CARES Act will not be considered in assessing public charge. Stimulus funds are a tax credit; not a public benefit.
Does the Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS) share my information with ICE or immigration officials?
No. DSS will check to make sure you are eligible for the program, but it does not share the information with ICE or immigration officials. 
 The public charge rule may be applied to green card holders who leave the U.S. for more than 180 continuous days (about 6 months) and then try to reenter the United States. If you are planning to stay outside of the U.S. for more than 180 days, you should speak with an immigration attorney or DOJ-accredited representative before you leave the U.S.
- if you use cash assistance or long-term care within five years of becoming a lawful permanent resident for reasons that existed before you entered the country; and
- you or your sponsor were asked to pay for these services; and
- you or your sponsor refused to pay.
These rules are very narrow and have almost never been applied.
 The public charge rule may be applied to green card holders who leave the U.S. for more than 180 continuous days (about 6 months) and then try to reenter the United States. You should speak with an immigration attorney or DOJ-accredited representative before you leave the U.S.
 If you are undocumented, you can apply for your U.S. citizen children without giving information about your own immigration status. You only have to give information about your child’s citizenship or immigration status. You do not have to give immigration status information about yourself or others in your household who are not applying for benefits. If you are undocumented, seeking to apply only for your citizen children, and you are asked to apply on your own behalf, contact legal services.
Note: It is always important to provide accurate information when applying for public benefits.