What is public charge? Does the rule apply to me?

Some people who apply for a green card or a visa to enter the U.S. must pass a “public charge” test, which looks at whether the person is likely to use certain government services in the future. In this test, immigration officials look at all of a person’s circumstances, including income, employment, health, education or skills, family situation, and their sponsor’s affidavit of support.


Who It Affects

The public charge rule might affect you if you are applying for: 

  • A green card (lawful permanent resident status) for the first time
  • A visa to enter the United States

We recommend reaching out to a nonprofit legal service provider or an immigration attorney for advice on your specific case. To find free or low-cost immigration legal services, visit immi.org.


Who It Doesn’t Affect

The public charge rule does NOT apply to all immigrants. Public charge will NOT affect you if you have or are applying for the following statuses:

  • Citizenship
  • TPS
  • DACA
  • U-Visa
  • T-Visa
  • Asylum or refugee status
  • Special immigrant juvenile status

If you are a green card holder looking to renew your status, the public charge rule will NOT apply to you either. You can continue to use any government programs that you qualify for.


Recent Changes to Public Charge

Under the Trump Administration, USCIS changed its public charge test to look more closely at factors such as health, age, income, and skills (including English proficiency). However, after a lengthy legal battle, the courts officially ended this public charge rule and USCIS immediately stopped applying it on March 9, 2021. 

This means that the Trump public charge rule is no longer in effect, and immigrant families can safely use health, housing, and food programs and services without fear. We strongly encourage you to get the help your family needs!

For more information about public charge, check out this ILRC community handout.

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