The administration finalized its "public charge" rule in August 2019. “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.

Right now, the only programs that are a part of the public charge test are: cash assistance (like TANF, SSI, and GA) and institutionalized long-term care (like living in a nursing home) through Medicaid. The new rule will 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. Moreover, the administration has added many "negative factors" to the public charge determination -- including not speaking English, being under 18 or over 61, or having a disability or medical condition.

If this rule is allowed to go into effect on October 15th, it will have a devastating impact on millions. We should be defined by how we contribute to our communities—not by how much money we have.

What you need to know:

  • The rule is NOT in effect until 10/15 and is not retroactive, so no one should stop accessing programs right now!

  • Refugees, asylees, asylum seekers, and other humanitarian statuses are exempt from the rule.

  • The rule does NOT impact people with green cards who are applying for citizenship.

  • Under the final rule, only receipt of benefits by the individual - not their family members - is considered.

  • Advocates have already filed many lawsuits against the rule, so there is a good chance the rule could be stopped by a judge.

We are most worried about the chilling effect -- that is, people taking themselves off of life-saving programs out of fear of jeopardizing their status. Providing accurate information is the best way to counter the administration's harmful intentions.


ILAP is partnering with Maine Equal Justice to educate members of Maine’s immigrant communities and the general public on the new public charge rule. Please read the documents below to find out what you need to know, how to get the help you need, and how to talk about public charge: