Public charge is a term used in immigration law to describe someone who is likely to rely primarily on government benefits for support. Effective February 24, 2020, the federal government is using a new public charge rule that expands the list of programs that may be considered under the public charge test.
The public charge rule does not affect everyone who is eligible for public benefits programs that provide support for health, nutrition, housing, employment, and child care. Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services wants to help you continue to receive the assistance that you and your family are eligible to receive and need.
Not all immigrants who receive public benefits are impacted by the public charge rule.
Download FCDJFS Public Charge Fact Sheet
Please see the below Frequently Asked Questions for more information.
What is public charge?
Public charge is a term used in immigration law to describe someone who is likely to rely on government benefits for support.
I’ve heard there is a new public charge rule. What is changing?
A “public charge” test is used by federal immigration officials to decide who they will allow into the United States and who can get Lawful Permanent Residency (LPR)—also known as a green card. It is also applied to LPRs who leave the county for 6 months or more and seek to reenter. Public charge does not apply to applications to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
What benefits are not considered in the new public charge rule?
The federal government has expanded the list of programs that may be considered under the public charge test.Public charge is also redefined in the new rule as someone who is “more likely than not” to receive public assistance benefits for more than 12 months within any 36-month period in the future.Note: The rules are different when you apply for a green card from outside the U.S.
Use of the following public assistance benefits are now considered in the public charge test:
- Ohio Works First (OWF or cash assistance)
- Supplemental Security Income
- Medicaid (see exceptions in question 3)
- Long-term Care Medicaid
- Medicaid Part D Low-Income Subsidies
- SNAP (food stamps or EBT)
- Public housing (Section 8)
- Housing choice vouchers and rental assistance
Does this public charge test apply to all immigrants?
The public charge rule only considers the benefits specified under question 2. All other public assistance benefits are not considered in the public charge test, including:
- Medicaid coverage for children and most young adults up to age 26, regardless of immigration status
- Medicaid for pregnant women and people with emergency medical conditions
- Disaster relief
- School nutrition programs
- Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Foster care and adoption
- Head Start and other child care subsidies
- Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
- Child Tax Credit (CTC)
- Any other benefit not specified under question 2
No. Most immigrants who receive public assistance benefits and services will not be impacted by the new public charge rule.
When does the new public charge rule go into effect?
This public charge test does not apply to refugees, asylees, and other categories of humanitarian immigrants. Additionally, the test does not apply to green card holders who are applying for U.S. citizenship or green card renewal.
February 24, 2020. New public assistance benefits included in the public charge rule received before February 24, 2020 will not be considered in the public charge determination.
When does the federal government use this new public charge rule?
Is this public charge rule used when I apply for citizenship?
This new rule applies to a limited number of legal immigration statuses, and only at specific points on the immigration pathway.Generally, the public charge test is applied when someone:
- Applies to enter the U.S.
- Applies to adjust their immigration status to become an LPR (obtain a green card)
- Is a green card holder and is reentering the country after leaving the U.S. for more than 6 consecutive months
No. The public charge rule does not apply to applications for citizenship.You or your family’s use of public assistance programs will not impact your citizenship application.
I have heard the public charge test applies to green card renewals. Is this true?
No. If you currently have a green card and need to renew, the public charge test does not apply.
What if I do not receive any benefits but by children do? Will their use of benefits impact my application for a green card?
No. The new public charge rule says that the federal government will consider only the public assistance benefits used by the person who is seeking to change his or her immigration status, and not the public assistance benefits used by the family member.
Have eligibility requirements for public assistance benefits changed?
No. The rules for Ohio’s public assistance benefits have not changed. If you are eligible to receive Medicaid, SNAP, or OWF now, you are still eligible for those benefits.
I'm concerned about the privacy of my information. How is the information provided about myself or my family used by Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services?
The federal government does not access our systems for immigration enforcement action.FCDJFS uses the information you given us only to see if you are eligible for benefits. We may need to verify the information you provide on a public assistance benefit application with the federal government, but only to confirm your eligibility to receive services.
Will discontinuing my benefits remove my information from Ohio’s systems?
No. State and local computer systems keep a record of your old case, so we will continue to have your information on file. Choosing to stop your benefits will result in loss of critical health care coverage, cash, food assistance, but won’t erase existing records.
I still have questions about how participating in public assistance benefits programs could impact my immigration status or citizenship. Can Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services provide me with assistance?
What other resources are available to me to learn more about the new public charge rule and its potential impact on me?
Will getting tested for Coronavirus (COVID-19) count against immigrants trying to get green cards?
FCDJFS wants to help you understand your rights and continue to receive the assistance you and your family need now. We cannot provide legal advice, but legal advice may be available at no or low cost to qualifying individuals through The Legal Aid Society of Columbus (614-241-2001, 1-888-246-4420, or https://www.columbuslegalaid.org/
) and other community partners (insert them here).
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services encourages all those, including aliens, with symptoms that resemble Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (fever, cough, shortness of breath) to seek necessary medical treatment or preventive services. Such treatment or preventive services will not negatively affect any alien as part of a future Public Charge analysis.
The Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds final rule is critical to defending and protecting Americans’ health and its health care resources. The Public Charge rule does not restrict access to testing, screening, or treatment of communicable diseases, including COVID-19. In addition, the rule does not restrict access to vaccines for children or adults to prevent vaccine-preventable diseases. Importantly, for purposes of a public charge inadmissibility determination, USCIS considers the receipt of public benefits as only one consideration among a number of factors and considerations in the totality of the alien’s circumstances over a period of time with no single factor being outcome determinative. To address the possibility that some aliens impacted by COVID-19 may be hesitant to seek necessary medical treatment or preventive services, USCIS will neither consider testing, treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19 as part of a public charge inadmissibility determination, nor as related to the public benefit condition applicable to certain nonimmigrants seeking an extension of stay or change of status, even if such treatment is provided or paid for by one or more public benefits, as defined in the rule (e.g. federally funded Medicaid).
The rule requires USCIS to consider the receipt of certain cash and non-cash public benefits, including those that may be used to obtain testing or treatment for COVID-19 in a public charge inadmissibility determination, and for purposes of a public benefit condition applicable to certain nonimmigrants seeking an extension of stay or change of status. The list of public benefits considered for this purpose includes most forms of federally funded Medicaid (for those over 21), but does not include CHIP, or State, local, or tribal public health care services/assistance that are not funded by federal Medicaid. In addition, if an alien subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility lives and works in a jurisdiction where disease prevention methods such as social distancing or quarantine are in place, or where the alien’s employer, school, or university voluntarily shuts down operations to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the alien may submit a statement with his or her application for adjustment of status to explain how such methods or policies have affected the alien as relevant to the factors USCIS must consider in a public charge inadmissibility determination. For example, if the alien is prevented from working or attending school, and must rely on public benefits for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak and recovery phase, the alien can provide an explanation and relevant supporting documentation. To the extent relevant and credible, USCIS will take all such evidence into consideration in the totality of the alien’s circumstances.