Federal Guidance on Public Charge: When Is it Safe to Use Public Benefits?

FEDERAL GUIDANCE ON PUBLIC CHARGE
When Is it Safe to Use Public Benefits?

Last updated AUGUST 2014

The U.S. government has published guidance on the “public charge” rules — when receiving public benefits may affect your immigration status or your ability to travel outside of the U.S. The guidance explains when it is and is not safe to use public benefits.

Highlights of the Public Charge Guidance

  • Use of Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or other health programs by you or your family members will not affect the public charge decision unless you use Medicaid or other government funds to pay for long-term care (nursing home or other institutionalized care).
  • Use of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (food stamps), WIC (the supplemental food program for women, infants, and children), public housing, or other noncash programs by you or your family members will not affect the public charge decision.
  • Use of cash welfare by your children or other family members will not affect the public charge decision unless these benefits are your family’s only income.
  • Your own use of cash welfare, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or General Assistance, might affect the public charge decision, depending on your situation. This is because the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or U.S. State Department can count your use of these benefits in deciding whether you are likely to become a “public charge.”

To download the full issue brief, click on the PDF icon, above.