Supporting Yakima's Immigrant Communities  |  News  |  Contact Us
Supporting Yakima's Immigrant Communities  |  News  |  Contact Us

Changes in Public Charge

What is the Public Charge Criteria

When people are applying to become legal permanent residents of the United States, or they are a new immigrant (someone who intends to stay) seeking admission into the United States, the government imposes a burden on that person to prove that they will not become a “public charge.” Public charge is a term used by the government to refer to people who are primarily dependent on the government for their basic needs; a person who receives cash assistance from the government or will be institutionalized for long term care at government expense.

The public charge rule does not apply to persons who are not seeking an immigrant visa, those already with Legal Permanent Residency (green cards), those applying for citizenship, or those applying through a VAWA or Humanitarian Visa, including U Visa applicants, T visa applicants, those applying for asylum, refugees, domestic violence survivors under the Violence Against Women’s Act, special immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan, Cubans, Nicaraguans under the NACARA, Special Immigrant Juveniles, and registry applicants (those who have been here since 1972).  

How it Works

The government official who is reviewing someone’s application for legal permanent residence or an immigrant visa has the job of looking into the future to determine if the applicant before them will become a public charge. Right now, this government official looks at age, health, family status, income, savings, property, education, skills and past usage of benefits. No one factor determines whether a person is likely to become a public charge but the totality of circumstances.  

If you are applying outside the United States (consular processing), the rules are already in affect and the officer must consider the use of non-cash benefits such as food or medical assistance by the applicant and family members. Further, although an affidavit of support is good evidence, it is no longer sufficient.

If you are applying inside the United States the government will consider uses of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Aged Blind and Disabled Assistance (ABD), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), State Family Assistance (SFA), and government funded nursing homes.

Proposed Rules Change

In October 2018, the government proposed to change the rule about what the government officials consider when making a public charge determination inside the United States. The new rule would broaden the number of people who can be considered public charges and would, in effect, lead to a decline in people given admission into the United States as immigrants or legal permanent residents.

The second effect, that is feared, is that in order to avoid being considered a public charge, families will forego government assistance that they normally would utilize, lowering the standard of living for many immigrant families. Because of misinformation about the proposed rule changes, the number of people foregoing assistance is likely to be far larger than those actually affected by the change.

Under the proposed rule the USCIS official will consider the use of Medicaid, food assistance by the government (basic food), Medicaid prescription drugs (Medicare Part D), and housing assistance.

There are many government programs that will not be affected under the new rule. These include any benefits received by your family members, emergency medical assistance, disaster relief, programs that are entirely locally funded such as Washington’s Food Assistance Program, benefits received by members of the US military, Medicaid disability education services, Medicaid used by foreign born children of US citizens, qualified health plans and tax credits, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program, health care clinic treatment, immunizations, and any other benefits not specifically listed in the new rule.

Screening Tool for Risk of Public Charge

Use this screening tool to help clients that may be affected by recent public charge changes – The Legal Aid Society

COVID-19 Assistance and Public Charge Information for Immigrants –

Local Editorial Coverage

Editorial: Valley’s legal immigrants will be hurt by ‘public charge’ changes– Yakima Herald Republic – November 24, 2018

Effects of these Changes

One in Seven Adults in Immigrant Families Reported Avoiding Public Benefit Programs in 2018 – Read the Study


Please see the following websites for more information:

Getting the Help You Need – Protecting Immigrant Families

When Is It Safe For Immigrants To Get Benefits? Public Charge Rules and Possible Changes – Washington Law Help

The Trump Administration’s “Public Charge” Attack on Immigrant Families – Information about an upcoming proposed Rule – National Immigrant Law Center

¿Cuándo es seguro para los inmigrantes recibir asistencia pública? Las reglas sobre Carga Pública y posibles cambios –  Washington Law Help

Protecting Immigrant Families

Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign – Public Charge Threats 101 – Center for Law and Social Policy & National Immigration Law Center

Public Charge – a New Threat to Immigrant Families – Clasp