On February 24, 2020 USCIS implemented a Public Charge regulation. The idea of “public charge” has been part of U.S. immigration law for over a century, but is now being applied in specific ways requiring persons applying to USCIS for immigration benefits to report their history of interaction with government benefits while in the U.S.
Federal, state, and local governments make programs available to assist individuals and families with the basic needs of life: housing, food, and healthcare. Public benefit programs have specific income, age, citizenship, or disability eligibility requirements that applicants must meet. The idea of a “public charge,” implies that a person is continually dependent on these government programs for their daily living.
Likelihood of becoming a public charge has already been available as ground for inadmissibility (INA 212(a)(4), 8 USC1182 (a)(4)), considered when a consular officer or border patrol agent assesses whether to grant a visa or entry to the U.S. The new regulation specifies and changes the way that consideration is handled.
Applications for nonimmigrant workers and change/extension of status now require beneficiaries to disclose certain public benefits they have received or are currently approved to receive (certified to receive). The Department of Homeland Security will take into account whether use of or approval for public benefits indicates likelihood that an alien will become a “public charge” dependent on government programs.
Generally, aliens in nonimmigrant statuses including B, E, F, H, J, O, or TN are not eligible to access these benefits; however, you should be aware of how to accurately answer the public benefits questions.
Benefits that must be disclosed
Receipt or approval to receive the following public benefits on or after February 24, 2020 must be disclosed. Please see the links below for descriptions of particular government benefit programs listed on public benefits sections of USCIS forms.
Federal, state, local or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/Food stamps)
Public Housing Agency
- Benefits through Indianapolis Housing Agency or another public housing agency
- U.S. federal government funded health insurance program administered by states
- Note: Medicaid services provided for individuals under 21, pregnancy or postnatal care, or emergency medical conditions should be disclosed but are excluded from a public charge determination.
Benefits that do not need to be disclosed
Examples of benefits and programs that do not need to be disclosed:
- Public benefits received or approval to receive benefits before February 24, 2020
- Public school attendance, services, and meal programs
- Participation in a private health insurance plan through the IU International Student and Scholar plan or IU Employee Benefits
- Assistance from campus or community resources such as Paws Pantry, nonprofit organizations, religious organizations, or food banks