Changes to Public Charge as of April 2021
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services issued this interagency letter, asking other federal agencies to help spread the word that the Trump public charge regulations are no longer in effect. The letter provides information about the longstanding 1999 public charge guidance that has been reinstated, including public benefits not considered in a public charge inadmissibility determination: Medicaid (except for Medicaid for long-term institutionalization), public housing, or SNAP benefits. It also notes that medical treatment or preventive services for COVID-19, including vaccinations, will not be considered for public charge purposes. The letter encourages immigrants to access benefits, saying that “It is critical that immigrants and their families, many of whom are essential workers, are able to access necessary government services for which they may be eligible to keep their families safe and healthy”.
Public charge is a term used within immigration law to denote someone who is, or is likely to become, primarily reliant upon government benefits and assistance programs for survival. The test is used in applications for lawful permanent residency (green cards) or admission to the United States – including diversity visa applications and applications to renew, change or extend visas. It is not used in processing applications for U.S. citizenship or naturalization. Depending on the “totality of circumstances” of the individual, a public charge determination could result in a denied immigration application, denied re-entry into the U.S., or deportation from the country.
Any benefits not specifically listed in the rule will continue to be excluded from the public charge test. These include, but are not limited to:
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
- Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
- Child care and development
- Disaster relief
- Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
- Emergency medical assistance
- Employment and job-training
- Federal student financial aid
- Food banks
- Head Start
- Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy
- National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs
- Pell Grants
- Benefits received by immigrant’s family members
- Any other benefit not specifically listed in the rule
Individuals and families who have questions or concerns about the impact of using public benefits on their immigration status should contact an immigration attorney. Resources may be available through one of the organizations listed on the Governor’s website.
Additionally, you may contact one of the following organizations for help:
- CLEAR Hotline: 1-888-201-1014
- Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP):
- NWIRP Seattle Office: 206-587-4009
- NWIRP Yakima Valley (Granger) Office: 509-854-2100
- NWIRP Wenatchee Office: 509-570-0054
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