U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a final rule on the public charge ground of inadmissibility. When you apply to be admitted into the United States or become a lawful permanent resident, USCIS can deny your application if it determines that you are “likely to become a public charge”—meaning you depend primarily on the government to support yourself. The final rule sets out how USCIS will make this determination.
The new rule will go into effect on December 23, 2022 and will apply to applications postmarked on or after that date. Until then, USCIS will continue to apply the 1999 Interim Field Guidance on public charge inadmissibility, as it has done since March 9, 2021.
Why This Matters
Under the new rule, USCIS formalizes an approach that allows it to follow the law, protect the country’s interests, and address the fear and confusion that previously led eligible noncitizens to disenroll from public benefits (even when they were not subject to the public charge ground).
What USCIS Will Look At
Under the final rule, USCIS will determine if you are likely to become a public charge based on the following:
- Your age, health, family status, financial status (including assets and resources), education, and skills;
- Whether a sponsor has submitted Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA, for you (when required); and
- Whether you have received or are receiving:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
- Cash assistance for income maintenance under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF);
- State, tribal, territorial, or local cash benefit programs for income maintenance (often called “General Assistance”); or
- Long-term institutionalization at government expense.
What USCIS Will Not Look At
Under the new rule, USCIS will NOT consider the following when making a public charge determination:
- Benefits received by your family members;
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or other nutrition programs benefits;
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) benefits;
- Medicaid (other than long-term institutionalization at government expense);
- Housing benefits;
- Any benefits related to immunizations or testing for communicable diseases; or
- Other supplemental or special-purpose benefits.
Under U.S. immigration law, public charge inadmissibility does not affect or apply to some applicants. That means the new rule will not affect you if you are:
- Already a lawful permanent resident (in most cases);
- A refugee;
- An asylee;
- Applying for or re-registering for Temporary Protected Status;
- A special immigration juvenile; or