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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.

Overview of 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.

New York State continues to fight the new public charge rule in federal court.


On February 24, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will begin implementing its new public charge rule. This announcement came after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision allowing the rule to go into effect while several federal lawsuits challenging the rule – including one filed by New York State – continue to be litigated.

The federal government’s new public charge rule will prevent some immigrants who use certain public benefits from obtaining a green card or a visa. This page provides additional detail on who may be impacted by this rule. Please note this information is for general public awareness and does not constitute legal advice.

What is a "public charge" and why is it important?

The term "public charge" is used by federal immigration officials to refer to an individual who is or is likely to become primarily dependent upon government-funded public benefits for support. If the federal government determines that an immigrant is a “public charge,” immigration officials may deny their green card or visa application.

In August 2019, the federal Department of Homeland Security announced a new rule that changes the way immigration officials determine whether certain immigrants may be considered a "public charge." Under this new public charge rule, the federal government will expand the types of benefits it considers when conducting a "public charge" test. Federal immigration officials will also change the way other factors involved in a “public charge” test – like age, income, family status, and level of education – are assessed.

The new public charge rule was originally scheduled to go into effect on October 15, 2019. However, a federal court blocked the rule from taking effect until January 27, 2020, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision allowing the rule to go into effect while litigation continues.

The federal government will begin enforcing the new public charge rule on February 24, 2020.

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