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Public Charge Rule

Updated October 25, 2022

It is important to know

  • Seek care without fear:
    • All New Yorkers in need of medical care, food assistance, and other benefits and services should seek the help they need without fear. 
    • Many noncitizens do not face a public charge test in their immigration applications.  
    • Many benefits are not looked at in the public charge test.

  • Regardless of immigration status:
    • Many health and social services are available to New Yorkers no matter your immigration status or ability to pay.
    • This includes COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and care, food assistance, tenant protection, free legal help, and more.
    • View more information or call 311 to learn about available services and resources in your language.

Get Access to Free Legal Services and Additional Information

  • Immigrant New Yorkers who have questions about public charge can call ActionNYC at 800-354-0365 and say "public charge." Call the hotline Monday to Friday, between 9:00am and 6:00pm.

  • The ActionNYC hotline provides timely and trusted information, connections to City-funded, free and safe immigration legal help, and referrals to other legal and non-legal services.
    • The hotline is free and anonymous.
    • Help is available in over 200 languages.

Click a topic, or press the enter key on a topic, to reveal its answer.

What is public charge?

  • Under federal law, immigration officials could deny certain applications for lawful permanent residence ("green card") or certain visas if they determine that the applicant is likely to become a "public charge."
  • According to longtime federal DHS policy, a public charge is someone who relies on cash assistance or government-funded institutionalization for long-term care to survive.
  • DHS's final rule on public charge, which will become effective on December 23, 2022, has a similar definition of public charge.

What is the federal government's public charge test?

  • Many noncitizens do not face a public charge test in their immigration applications.
  • For those who do, federal law requires immigration officials to look at certain factors to determine whether someone is likely to become a public charge. These include:
    • Age
    • Health
    • Family status
    • Assets, resources, and financial status
    • Education and skills.
  • For some applicants, an Affidavit of Support (USCIS Form I-864) is also required.
  • Under longtime DHS policy and the new DHS final rule on public charge, the only public benefits that immigration officials look at as part of the public charge test are:
    • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
    • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
    • State, Tribal, territorial, or local cash assistance for income maintenance
    • Institutionalization for long-term care at government expense

Does the federal government look at ALL public benefits as part of the public charge test?

  • No. Many public benefits and services for healthcare, nutrition, housing, and other special purposes are not looked at as part of the public charge test.
  • Some benefits excluded from the public charge test are:
    • SNAP, WIC, free and reduced school meals
    • Medicaid (except for long-term institutionalization), CHIP, Medicare
    • Home-based or community-based health services
    • Vaccines, testing and treatment for COVID-19 and other communicable diseases
    • Public housing and shelter
    • Supplemental or special-purpose benefits such as child care or utility assistance
  • Also, the new DHS final rule on public charge makes clear that:
    • Benefits received by family members other than the applicant, such as a U.S. citizen child, will not be looked at in the applicant's public charge test
    • Being in an institution for short-term rehabilitation or for a criminal conviction will not be looked at as part of the public charge test
    • Disability, on its own, is not enough to make someone a public charge
    • Using benefits that are looked at in the public charge test does not automatically make someone a public charge
  • More information on benefits and public charge has been posted by the federal agencies in charge of major benefits programs like SNAP and Medicaid:

Does public charge apply to me?

  • Many noncitizens do not face a public charge test in their immigration applications.
  • Under current law, current DHS policy, and the new DHS final rule on public charge, the following groups generally do not face a public charge inadmissibility test:
    • People applying for or granted:
      • Asylum
      • Refugee status
      • U or T visas
      • Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)
      • VAWA self-petitions
      • U.S. citizenship
    • People applying for or renewing DACA or Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
  • There are also other statuses not listed here that may not face a public charge inadmissibility test. Visit USCIS public charge resources page for more information.

I have questions about how Public Charge might apply to me. How can I get legal help?

  • You can call ActionNYC at 800-354-0365 and say "public charge" Monday to Friday, from 9:00am to 6:00pm, to learn more and get answers to your questions.
    • Get connections to City-funded, free and safe immigration legal help and referrals to other legal and non-legal services.
    • The hotline is free and anonymous.
    • Help is available in over 200 languages.

Evaluations and Reports

Fact Sheet: SNAP Enrollment Trends in New York City

June 2019
Download the fact sheet

Expanding Public Charge Inadmissibility: The Impact on Immigrants, Households, and the City of New York

December 2018
Download the research brief