Public Charge Rule – Q&A to Clear Confusion

The proposed rule to change the meaning of “public charge” has no impact on the rights of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The proposed rule is not in effect, faces numerous legal challenges and there is still time to oppose and resist the change.

DHS has revised the definition of public charge in determining whether an alien can be denied a green card or permanent residency. If the proposed rule goes into effect, the U.S. government will at a minimum consider the alien’s age; health; family status; assets, resources, and financial status; and education and skills; and may consider any required affidavit of support.

The final rule defines the term public charge to mean an alien who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months, in total, within any 36-month period. The rule further defines the term public benefit to include cash benefits for income maintenance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), most forms of Medicaid, Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and subsidized public housing.

The rule does not include, for example, consideration of emergency medical assistance, disaster relief, national school lunch programs, foster care and adoption, Head Start, or student or home mortgage loans.

Q1. Does President Trump’s new public charge apply to citizenship applicants?

A1. No. The rule impacts only applicants for permanent residence (green cards). Applicants for U.S. citizenship need not be concerned. You can naturalize even if you are receiving public benefits. That’s true assuming you were eligible to get the benefits when you applied and did not lie to get them.

Q2. I got a conditional, two-year green card through marriage. I already filed U.S. Citizenship and Citizenship Services form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. Am I subject to the new public charge rule?

A2. No. The rule does not apply to I-751 petitioners. That’s because you are not applying for adjustment of status to permanent residence. The law requires you to file form I-751 because you got your permanent residence within two years of your marriage. However, since you already have permanent residence, though it is conditional the rule doesn’t apply. You are just applying to remove a condition from your residence.

Q3. Does the new rule apply to green card holders applying to renew or replace their cards?

A3. No. Applying for a new card doesn’t count as applying for permanent residence.