Information About Public Benefits (“Public Charge”)

You may have heard that the government is considering changing the rules related to public benefits, or “public charge.” As of November 2018, the rules have NOT changed.


“Public charge” is a test to see if someone is likely to become dependent on specific government programs. The government uses this test when someone applies for a family-based green card or certain visas.

As of right now, the only programs that are a part of the public charge test are:

  • Cash assistance (like TANF, SSI, and GA)

  • Institutionalized long-term care (like living in a nursing home) through Medicaid

The government is trying to change public charge. The government wants to add programs like SNAP, Section 8 housing and housing vouchers, and non-emergency Medicaid to the benefits that, if received by the applicant, could make it harder to get a family-based green card.



NO, Public Charge Will NOT Impact You If:

  • You have a green card and are not outside of the U.S. for more than six months.

  • You are applying for citizenship.

  • You are a refugee, asylum seeker, asylee, applicant or recipient of a visa for survivors of serious crime or domestic violence, or a special immigrant juvenile (SIJS), applying for a green card through one of those categories.

However, this does impact anyone applying for a family-based green card. If someone in these categories wants to petition for a family member to get a green card, it may apply to that family member, so contact an immigration lawyer if you have specific questions.

YES, Public Charge May Impact You If:

  • You are applying for a green card or visa and are not in one of the above categories.

  • You are a citizen or green card holder petitioning for a family member to get a green card. That family member will be impacted by the public charge test.

  • You have a green card and you leave the U.S. for more than 6 months. Talk to an immigration attorney before you leave.


This change is only PROPOSED and has not happened yet. Families should not stop getting benefits that help with basic needs without talking to an immigration lawyer first. Even if the rule changes in the future, the rule will only apply to those benefits received after it becomes final.

If you think you or a family member may be impacted by this proposed rule, call ILAP at 207-780-1593.

This is general information and not legal advice. If you think this may apply to you, talk with an immigration attorney.