Public Charge Rules

Public Charge has not gone into effect. Public comments closed on December 10th, 2018. The government must notify the public 60 days before public charge tests are set into effect. Before that they must respond to the publics comments.

Disclaimer – this is general info only – get a screening at a legal clinic to see how these rules affect you and your family members.

What is Public Charge?

According to National Immigration Law Center. “Public charge” is currently defined as a person who is or is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for support. When a non–U.S. citizen applies for a visa to enter the U.S. or for lawful permanent resident status (to get a “green card”), a U.S. government official will look at the person’s life circumstances to see if the person is likely to depend on government programs in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions:

If I used government programs in the past, does that mean I may not be able to get a green card? 

The public charge test is forward-looking. If you previously received help from government programs but your situation has changed, you can show that you will not need those services now or in the future (for example, because you now have a job).

How does the government decide who is likely to become a public charge?

The government uses a public charge “test.” The public charge test is based on several different factors. An immigration officer must look at the “totality of circumstances” by looking at the person’s age, health, family status, financial status, education and skills, and the “affidavit of support” filed by their sponsor (if they have one). The government must look at the person’s whole situation to decide if they are likely to depend on public programs in the future.

When does the public charge test apply?

The test applies in two situations: (1) when a person applies to enter the U.S. or (2) when a person applies to adjust immigration status to become a lawful permanent resident (to get a green card). You apply for a visa or green card by submitting information on a form. Using the information from that form and from the interview that follows, the government decides if you are likely to become a public charge. The test is not used when a permanent resident applies for U.S. citizenship.

(These answers were found on MomsRising.Org)

Resources to learn more about Public Charge:

Immigration Legal Resource Center – Public Charge: Your Questions Answered

National Immigration Law Center

Sanctuary Santa Cruz

Office of Immigrant Relations, Public Charge Fact Sheet

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website – Public Charge

Protecting Immigrant Families 



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