Community Resources

Public Charge

The State of Washington is aware of the Department of Homeland Security’s final regulations and procedures around the “public charge test” as it relates to federal immigration policies. We are reviewing these changes and their impact on Washingtonians. We want to provide accurate, reliable information to you to be able to effectively help the immigrant clients that we serve. Of utmost importance is that clients potentially affected by the rule are advised to seek independent legal counsel; our agencies are not able to provide that level of assistance.

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

Families Fact Sheet for Public Charge
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