Download the Public Charge Factsheet for North Carolina (October 2018) (En Español)
On August 14, 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published its finalized “public charge” rule in the Federal Register, which penalizes immigrants with low incomes and forces them to choose between services they need and keeping their families together.
The final rule puts admissions to the U.S. or applications for a “green card” at risk if the immigrant seeking a change in their status receives non-emergency Medicaid (except if they are pregnant or a child under 21), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly “Food Stamps”) benefits, and “Section 8” rent vouchers, in addition to cash benefits included in the current public charge rule in effect, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The rule also emphasizes that use of benefits for more than 12 months within any 3-year period – where receipt of two benefits in one month counts as two months, for example – will be counted negatively against an immigrant, a standard stricter than what is currently applied. It is worth noting that the vast majority of individuals who obtain a green card in the U.S. or obtain legal permanent residency through an immigrant visa are not eligible for these benefits.
The final rule contains several improvements over the proposed rule that was published last year.
- The rule excludes from consideration use of Medicaid by pregnant women and children under the age of 21. This will allow many lawfully present immigrants in critical need of those benefits to continue using them without fear that it will impact a green card application.
- The rule also removes several benefit programs that used to be included in the published rule. Under the final rule, eligible immigrants can continue to use Medicare Part D and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) without concern that it will affect a future green card application.
- Many other critical benefit programs have been excluded from consideration in all versions of the rule, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition assistance, free and reduced price school lunch, and more; eligible immigrants can use them without effect on a green card application.
- The final rule makes clear that it does not apply to use of public benefits by an immigrants’ U.S. citizen children or family members. They can continue to use benefits as needed without any impact on their parent’s application for lawful status.
- The rule now carves out an exemption for caregivers – who were not recognized for their critical work in earlier drafts. The final rule recognizes that caregivers make important contributions to society even if they don’t work outside the home, and does not penalize them for failing to have a work history in the U.S.
Under the new rule, however, immigrants can be penalized just for having an income below 125 percent of the federal poverty line, giving discretion to the Trump Administration to deny admission to immigrants living below the poverty line. The rule makes it clear that there will be broader, additional scrutiny of an immigrant’s economic situation, considering their credit history and scores and work history. People with medical conditions or who lack proficiency in English (which was previously only considered at the citizenship stage) will also be viewed negatively under the proposed rule. Even if an immigrant or their family members have never accessed a single benefit, they can still have their green card application rejected based simply on the fact that they live in or close to poverty.
For more information for families on the proposed public charge rule and how it may affect you, please see this video in Spanish // Para más información sobre la carga pública y cómo podría afectarle, vea este video in Español.