Skip to navigation Skip to content Skip to footer
Search SCCGOV Main Portal

Public Charge

 Updated 1/28/2020​​​​​​​​​​​​
​Get the Services You Need and Stay Informed

Every family is different. To make the right choice for your family, consult with trusted legal service providers.  

The County encourages residents to consult with legal service providers when making decisions for themselves and their families. Many immigrants  are not  subject to any U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) public charge assessment at all, including lawful permanent residents (green card holders), unless they leave the country for more than 180 days; individuals applying for asylum or refugee status; and many other immigrants. On top of that, many benefits are not implicated by the rule. For example, neither use of WIC nor CHIP is considered under the new rule. 


These organizations provide free or low-cost legal advice on immigration and public benefits:  
  • Bay Area Legal Aid: (408) 850-7066 English, Spanish  
  • Asian Law Alliance: (408) 287-9710 English, Vietnamese, Chinese, Tagalog, Korean, Spanish  
  • Law Foundation: (408) 293-4790* English, Vietnamese, Chinese, Spanish, and more*
    • ​*Law Foundation does not specialize in immigration law but can answer questions about using Public Benefit programs. 
Things may change quickly, so keep yourself updated by visiting www.sccgov.org/publiccharge​
​​​​​​​​​​​
faqGroupLookupString: 1. About the NEW "Public Charge" Rule
1. About the NEW "Public Charge" Rule
+
What is the new “public charge” rule?
+
The new “public charge” rule applies a stricter test for determining whether an immigrant is likely to become dependent upon the government. Under the new rule, an Immigration Officer will consider an applicant’s likely use of a broader set of Public Benefits. 

This rule does not apply to all immigrants. Also, it does not consider all Public Benefit programs. WIC and Medi-Cal for children under 21 and pregnant people are not considered. ​

If this rule applies to you, it could bar your admission to the United States if travelling from abroad or your adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident (your ability to get a green card). We recommend that you consult with trusted legal service providers, listed at the bottom of this page under number 4. 

The new rule does not change eligibility for Public Benefit programs.  
​​​​​​​​​
Which programs are considered under the new rule?
+
​The new “public charge” rule considers: 

  • Use of Cash Assistance benefits, for example 
    • CalWORKs 
    • General Assistance  
    • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) ​
  • Use of long-term care institutions paid at government expense, for example 
    • Nursing Home 
    • Mental Health Facility    
    • Use of Non-Cash benefits 
    • Medi-Cal (full coverage for adults) * 
    • CalFresh (federally funded)* 
    • Section 8 Voucher Housing Assistance* 
    • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance* 
    • Federal Public Housing* 
* Indicates that this program has been added to the new rule 
​​​
Which programs are NOT considered under the new rule?
+
The new “public charge” rule does NOT consider: 

  • Use of Non-Cash benefits, for example 
    • Medi-Cal (limited / emergency coverage)   
    • Medi-Cal for Children Under 21 & Pregnant People  
    • Medicare 
    • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)   
    • Public Health Services  
    • WIC 
    • School Breakfast & Lunch  
    • Public Education  
    • Head Start 
    • Child Care  
  • Use of Cash benefits they EARNED, for example 
    • Social Security Benefits    
    • Government Pensions   
    • Veterans Benefits   
    • Unemployment Benefits    
    • Worker’s Compensation  
  • Family members’ benefit use ​
​​​​​
The new rule can apply to you if you are:
+
  • A person within the United States applying for Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR or green card) 
  • A person arriving to the United States and is seeking entry 
  • A Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR or green card holder) returning to the U.S. after 180 days abroad ​
The new rule does NOT apply to you if you are:
+
  • A U.S. Citizen or an Applicant for U.S. Citizenship (naturalization) 
  • Most Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR or green-card holder)* 
  • A Refugee 
  • An Asylee 
  • A T Visa Applicant or T Visa Holder 
  • A U Visa Applicant or U Visa Holder 
  • A Self-Petitioner under VAWA 
  • An Applicant or Individual Re-Registering for TPS 
  • An Afghan or Iraqi Special Immigrant 
  • A Special Immigrant Juvenile 
  • An Individual Granted Relief Under CAA, NACARA, or HRIFA

Additional categories of immigrants may be exempt.  


*The public charge rule does apply to LPRs returning to the U.S after 180 or more days abroad.  
​​
faqGroupLookupString: 2. Updates on What’s Happening Now
2. Updates on What’s Happening Now
+
What's happening now?
+
For the latest updates, visit www.sccgov.org/publiccharge

Updated 1/28/2020​
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a new rule to broaden the meaning of “public charge” and expand the public benefits that can be considered in public charge inadmissibility determinations.

The rule was scheduled to go into effect on October 15, 2019. However, many governments and organizations challenged the rule and initially obtained court orders blocking implementation of the rule on a temporary basis. On August 13, 2019, the County of Santa Clara, along with the City and County of San Francisco, filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration to invalidate the new "public charge" rule and subsequently obtained a preliminary injunction from the federal district court barring the Trump Administration from implementing the rule while litigation was pending 

Unfortunately, several courts of appeals stayed the preliminary injunctions issued by district courts—including the injunction obtained by the County of Santa Clara. And yesterday on January 27, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to stay the one remaining nationwide injunction, allowing the rule to take effect throughout California and most of the country. With the Supreme Court’s ruling, DHS is now free to apply the new public charge rule.  Because the new public charge rule is not retroactive, benefits used before the new rule took effect will not be considered in public charge determinations (except for past cash assistance or long-term care at government expense, which have historically been considered under previous versions of the public charge rule). 

​​​​​​
faqGroupLookupString: 3. About the PRIOR "Public Charge" Rule
3. About the PRIOR "Public Charge" Rule
+
What is the prior "public charge" rule?
+
The prior “public charge” is a legal term that describes certain people who the Federal Government believe may become dependent upon the government. 

This rule does not apply to all immigrants. Also, it does not consider all Public Benefit programs. The only types of benefits consider are direct cash assistance and long-term care at government expense.  

If this rule applies to you, it could bar your admission to the United States if travelling from abroad or your adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident (your ability to get a green card). We recommend that you consult with trusted legal service providers, listed at the bottom of this page under number 4. 
​​​​​
Which programs are considered under the prior rule?
+
The prior “public charge” rule considers: 

  • Use of Cash Assistance for example 
    • CalWORKs 
    • General Assistance 
    • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) 
  • Use of long-term care institutions paid at government expense, for example 
    • Mental health facility 
    • Nursing home ​
​​
Which programs are not considered under the prior rule?
+
The prior “public charge” rule does not consider:  ​

  • Use of Non-Cash benefits, for example: 
    • Medi-Cal (other than for long-term care) 
    • Medicare   
    • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)  
    • Public Health Services  
    • CalFresh    
    • WIC  
    • School Breakfast & Lunch  
    • Section 8 Voucher Housing Assistance 
    • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance 
    • Federal Public Housing   
    • Public Education  
    • Head Start   
    • Child Care  

  • Use of Cash benefits they EARNED, for example: 
    • Social Security Benefits   
    • Government Pensions  
    • Veterans Benefits  
    • Unemployment Benefits   
    • Worker’s Compensation  

  • ​Family members’ benefit use ​
​​​
The prior rule can apply to you if you are:
+
  • A person within the United States applying for Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR or green card) 
  • A person arriving to the United States and is seeking entry 
  • A Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR or green card holder) returning to the U.S. after 180 days abroad 
​​
The prior rule does not apply to you if you are:
+
  • A U.S. Citizen or an Applicant for U.S. Citizenship (naturalization) 
  • Most Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR or green-card holder)* 
  • A Refugee 
  • An Asylee 
  • A T Visa Applicant or T Visa Holder 
  • A U Visa Applicant or U Visa Holder 
  • A Self-Petitioner under VAWA 
  • An Applicant or Individual Re-Registering for TPS 
  • An Afghan or Iraqi Special Immigrant 
  • A Special Immigrant Juvenile 
  • An Individual Granted Relief Under CAA, NACARA, or HRIFA 
Additional categories of immigrants may be exempt.  

*​The public charge rule does apply to LPRs returning to the U.S after 180 or more days abroad. 
​​​
faqGroupLookupString: 4. Resources: Trusted Legal Service Providers
4. Resources: Trusted Legal Service Providers
+
List of Organizations That Can Help
+
Get the services you need and stay informed.

Every family is different. To make the right choice for your family, consult with trusted legal service providers.  

The County encourages residents to consult with legal service providers when making decisions for themselves and their families. Many immigrants  are not  subject to any U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) public charge assessment at all, including lawful permanent residents (green card holders), unless they leave the country for more than 180 days; individuals applying for asylum or refugee status; and many other immigrants. On top of that, many benefits are not implicated by the rule. For example, neither use of WIC nor CHIP is considered under the new rule. 

These organizations provide free or low-cost legal advice on immigration and public benefits:  

  • Bay Area Legal Aid: (408) 850-7066 English, Spanish  
  • Asian Law Alliance: (408) 287-9710 English, Vietnamese, Chinese, Tagalog, Korean, Spanish  
  • Law Foundation: (408) 293-4790* English, Vietnamese, Chinese, Spanish, and more*
    • ​*Law Foundation does not specialize in immigration law but can answer questions about using Public Benefit programs. 

Things may change quickly, so keep yourself updated by visiting www.sccgov.org/publiccharge​


Last updated: 1/28/2020 2:44 PM