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Update as of 03/13/20: USCIS has announced that immigrants can seek testing, treatment, and prevention of COVID-19 without fearing immigration consequences due to “public charge.” Asking for and maintaining records of any medical treatments you may receive related to COVID-19 is strongly recommended.

Frequently Asked Questions on Public Charge

New York State is responding to the changes to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s public charge rule by providing information and resources, including free legal consultations, to our communities. Please note this information is for general public awareness and does not constitute legal advice.

What is different about the new public charge rule?

The federal government’s new public charge rule expands the number of benefits that immigration officials will consider when conducting a “public charge” test. Under the previous rule, the only benefits considered as part of a “public charge” test were:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF);
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
  • State and local cash assistance; and
  • Long-term, government-funded institutional care.

Under the new public charge rule, immigration officials will also consider the following benefits, in addition to those listed above:

  • Medicaid (unless the applicant is pregnant or under 21 years old);
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); and
  • Housing assistance (such as Section 8 housing vouchers and public housing like the New York City Housing Authority or Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority)

Important: Receipt of public benefits is not the only factor that the federal government will consider in determining whether someone is likely to become a “public charge.” They must look at an applicant’s full circumstances, including age, income, skills, employment, education, health, and more.

Who may be impacted by the new rule?

Any immigrant applying for a green card or for certain types of visas, including individuals applying for:

  • Admission to the U.S. (including lawful permanent residents seeking re-entry after an absence of more than 180 days);
  • An immigrant or non-immigrant visa at a consulate abroad;
  • Adjustment to lawful permanent resident status (green card); or
  • Extension of current immigrant or non-immigrant status.

Please note there is currently a different “public charge” policy for individuals applying for green cards and visas at U.S. consulates abroad.

Important: The federal government’s new public charge rule expands the number of benefits that immigration officers will consider when conducting a “public charge” test. However, the new public charge rule is not retroactive, meaning it will not look at an applicant’s use of Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or housing assistance benefits prior to the new rule’s effective date on February 24, 2020.

It is also important to note that the public charge rule will only impact you if you are the direct recipient of the benefits considered under the “public charge” test. In other words, benefits received by an applicant’s family members will not be considered as part of the “public charge” test.

Are there immigrants who WILL NOT be affected by the new public charge rule?

Yes. Individuals who fall into one or more of the following categories will not be impacted by the new public charge rule:

  • Most lawful permanent residents (green card holders);
  • VAWA self-petitioners (victims of domestic violence);
  • Applicants/recipients of U or T visas;
  • Applicants for Temporary Protected Status (TPS);
  • Refugees and Asylees; or
  • Applicants for U.S. citizenship.

Should I stop using public benefits because of the new public charge rule?

To determine how the new rule may impact your individual circumstances, you should first consult an immigration attorney. To schedule a free legal consultation, please call the New York State New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636.

There are a number of benefits that will not be included in the “public charge” test under the new rule. You can continue using these benefits without being impacted by the new public charge rule. These include:

  • Health benefits such as the NYS Essential Plan, Child Health Plus, Qualified Health Plans or Advanced Premium Tax Credits;
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC);
  • Child Care; and
  • School Meals.

Does New York State Support the new public charge rule?

No, Governor Cuomo has spoken out against the change to the public charge rule. New York State continues to fight the new public charge rule in federal court.

How can I get help?

If you are wondering if you should stop using public benefits, you should first consult an immigration attorney. To schedule a free legal consultation, or for any other questions regarding “public charge,” call the New York State New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636. The Hotline is open from 9:00am to 8:00pm Monday-Friday (except federal holidays).

Overview of Public Charge

Frequently Asked Questions on Public Charge

Resources on Public Charge