Public Charge

COVID-19 UPDATE:

“USCIS has announced that immigrants can seek testing, treatment, and prevention of COVID-19 without fearing immigration consequences due to public charge. The public charge regulations from the Department of Homeland Security & Department of State — which institute a wealth test in our immigration system – went into effect on Monday, February 24, 2020, while the litigation proceeds in the lower courts. Please visit our Know Your Rights page for more information.” – Protecting Immigrant Families

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Public Charge

“Public charge” is a ‘wealth test’ or ground of inadmissibility. Grounds of inadmissibility are reasons that a person could be denied a green card, visa, or admission into the United States. It is not a test that applies to everyone. In deciding whether to grant an applicant a green card or a visa, an immigration officer must decide whether that person is likely to become dependent on certain government benefits in the future, which would make them a “public charge.” 

Here are a few important points regarding public charge:

  • Public charge does not apply to all immigrants. This law mainly impacts those seeking permanent resident status through family member petitions. To learn more about who is affected by the rule, visit Protecting Immigrant Families or Keep Your Benefits
  • In immigration law, public charge is a ground of “inadmissibility.” This law says that those who are viewed as likely to become dependent on the government in the future as a “public charge” are inadmissible. Grounds of inadmissibility only apply to those seeking entry at our borders or those applying for a green card (lawful permanent residence).
  • Many immigrant categories are exempt from the public charge ground of inadmissibility, even if they might be applying for status or a green card. U visa holders, T visa holders, asylees, refugees, and many more categories are exempt.
  • Public charge laws do not apply in the naturalization process, through which lawful permanent residents apply to become U.S. citizens.
  • Many health and nutrition programs are NOT included in the public charge test – and are still safe to use. These include:
    • Emergency Medicaid
    • State and locally funded health care
    • Child care related services
    • Disaster assistance
    • Disaster SNAP (also known as D-SNAP or disaster food stamps)
    • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
    • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
    • Food banks and homeless shelters 
  • A family member’s use of public benefits will not affect an immigrant’s green card application. There is no benefit to disenrolling U.S. citizens or other eligible family members from health and nutrition programs. 

Tools like KeepYourBenefits.org (or TusBeneficiosPublicos.org in Spanish) can help you assess whether you may be impacted by the expanded rule.

For more information, visit www.protectingimmigrantfamilies.org and learn more about how to keep our communities healthy and strong.

For legal background information on Public Charge, please visit: Public Charge – Immigrant Legal Resource Center


Frequently Asked Questions:

Will receiving Medi-Cal make me a “public charge”?

○ Because the Medi-Cal expansion for young adults is state-funded and not federally funded, it is NOT counted in the public charge test .

(The expanded public charge rule will be effective beginning Feb. 24, 2020.)

If you are an undocumented young adult up to age 26, you may check your eligibility using this link to the chart from the California Immigrant Policy Center.

○ To find an immigration legal services provider who can help you assess whether public charge might impact you for reasons other than the Medi-Cal young adult expansion, please contact our partners:

San Bernardino Community Services Center,

Phone: (909) 885-1992 | Email: sbcsc.org@gmail.com

How do I enroll in Medi-Cal?

○ Submit a new application: DHCS has a step-by-step guide, including links to the paper and online application.

○ Find a local health center that can help you enroll in Medi-Cal: Please visit the California Health Plus clinic finder for the locations. 

○ For help with the Medi-Cal eligibility rules, call the Health Consumer Alliance at 888-804-3536


COVID-19 UPDATE:

“USCIS has announced that immigrants can seek testing, treatment, and prevention of COVID-19 without fearing immigration consequences due to public charge. The public charge regulations from the Department of Homeland Security & Department of State — which institute a wealth test in our immigration system – went into effect on Monday, February 24, 2020, while the litigation proceeds in the lower courts. Please visit our Know Your Rights page for more information.” – Protecting Immigrant Families

All of us have a role to play in keeping our communities healthy. This is especially true when our communities face a public health emergency like COVID-19. Immigrant families may be wondering which resources are available to them during this time. Below is some information about immigrants’ rights in health care settings: 

In General

  • It is safe and smart to see the doctor if you need care. Your doctor will honor your right to privacy and you should not be asked about your immigration status unless you apply for insurance. 
  • You can still see a doctor without medical insurance. This includes emergency room care, community health centers, migrant health centers, free clinics, and public hospitals.
  • Hospitals and health care spaces are safe to visit. Federal guidelines prohibit immigration agents from conducting arrests or other enforcement actions at health care facilities, such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, health clinics, and urgent care facilities. 

If you feel your rights or the rights of someone you know have been violated, you can file an immigration enforcement civil rights complaint. To learn more about filing a complaint, click here.  

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