The administration finalized its “public charge” rule last month, and it will go into effect on October 15, 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.

Public charge does NOT apply to:

• refugees, asylees, and people applying for asylum;
• survivors of trafficking, domestic violence, or other serious crimes (T or U visa
applicants/holders) and VAWA self-petitioners;
• special immigrant juveniles;
• certain people paroled into the United States;
• U.S. citizens and most lawful permanent residents; and
• people who applied for a green card before October 15, 2019.

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 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.

Services that are not listed above will not be counted in the new public charge test. This includes WIC, CHIP, school lunches, food banks, and shelters. You can safely use these programs if you are eligible without it affecting a public charge decision.
The rule will not go into effect until at least October 15, 2019, and could be stopped by a judge. No one will be penalized for accessing the new benefits (SNAP, Section 8 housing, Medicaid) before October 15, 2019. If you will be applying for a green card, are not in the long list of people exempted from public charge, and think that you may be impacted, contact an immigration attorney before taking yourself or a family member off of life-saving programs.

What you need to know:

• The rule is NOT in effect until October 15th 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.
• Only receipt o f benefits by the individual – not their family members – will be
• 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 has partnered with Maine Equal Justice to create educational materials about the rule. Access those here: