En Español 

In the past few years, the law about “public charge” has changed several times, leaving families confused about what it all means for them. The law changed again in March 2021, making it easier for most families to pass the public charge test. Read this flyer for the latest information on public charge!

What is Public Charge?

Some people who apply for a green card (lawful permanent resident status) or a visa to enter the U.S. must pass a “public charge” test – which looks at whether the person is likely to depend primarily on government services in the future. Immigration officials look at all of a person’s circumstances, including their age, income, health, education or skills, family situation, and their sponsor’s affidavit of support or contract.

What benefit programs can I use without concern?

Under the new public charge rule in 2021, using the following government programs will NOT affect your immigration status or your immigration application. You and your children and family members may use them without concern if you are eligible.

Medicaid*, ACA, NC Health Choice (children’s health insurance), free or sliding-scale clinics, and all other health care (*Except for long-term institutional care (living in hospital at government expense) Pandemic-related one-time financial assistance. This includes NC HOPE and local rental programs in Wake, Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Orange, and Mecklenburg counties, among others.
COVID testing, treatment, and vaccines WIC
SNAP (food stamps) Public Housing
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and child tax credits Free or reduced-price school lunches and P-EBT
Stimulus checks from the IRS Food banks or shelters
And any other benefits that are not listed in the section below…


Are there any benefit programs I should be concerned about using?

The only public benefits that are considered negatively in the public charge test are listed below:

  • Cash assistance programs that provide ongoing payments. In North Carolina, those programs would include SSI (payments for disabled persons) and TANF (monthly cash assistance)
  • Long-term institutional care at government expense

Immigration generally only considers these programs negatively if you (the immigrant who wants to apply for status in the future) are using them for yourself. If your children or other family members in your household are using them, they are only considered negatively if those benefits are the *only source of income* for the entire household.


  • Charlotte and surrounding counties: (704) 376-1600
  • Eastern North Carolina, Triangle, and Triad: (919) 856-2162
  • Western North Carolina: (828) 253-0406 (Se habla español, and interpreters are available in various languages)