Community Resources

Public Charge

The State of Washington is aware of the Trump Administration’s changes to the “public charge” test that may impact immigrants’ applications for visas, permanent residency or admission to the U.S. if they receive certain public benefits. The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the changes to be implemented and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will implement the new rule on February 24, 2020.

Of utmost importance is that clients potentially affected by the changes are advised to seek independent legal counsel. Our agency is not able to provide legal guidance based on an individual’s specific situation.

Key Facts
  • The State of Washington’s programs and services remain in place and continue to be accessible to those who are eligible.
  • The rule will apply to immigration applications postmarked on or after February 24, 2020.
  • The rule will consider benefits received on or after February 24, 2020. It does not apply retroactively and cannot consider benefits received prior to this date.
  • It does not count the use of benefits by a person’s family members. The use of benefits by children or other household members would not be counted against an individual applying for permanent residency or admission to the United States.
  • Public charge does not apply to all immigrants. Every family is different and people should make the right choice for them and their families, based on their specific situation.
  • It does not impact lawful permanent residents (“green card holders”) applying for U.S. citizenship or naturalization.
  • It does not impact refugees and asylees, Amerasian immigrants, Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa Holders, Cuban/Haitian Entrants, humanitarian parolees, victims of human trafficking (T-Visa), victim of criminal activity (U-Visa), Special Immigrant Juveniles, or VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) self-petitioners.
  • It may impact those applying for lawful permanent residency (“green cards”) or admission to the United States — including diversity visa immigrants and applications to renew, change or extend visas in the United States.
  • Many public benefits are not part of the new rule. Families should feel comfortable continuing to use benefits they are eligible for that are not implicated under the new rule.
  • The new rule will consider cash assistance programs, long-term medical institutionalization, and some federal healthcare, nutrition, and housing benefits. For a complete list of benefits, see the Frequently Asked Questions.
  • The new rule will not consider any other federal benefits. That includes WIC, CHIP, school lunches, food banks, shelters, and many more.
  • No changes are being made to non-cash state and local benefits.

Public Charge Fact Sheet for Providers & Families >>

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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