12. Public Charge

Last Update: January 2019

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“Public Charge” is a term used in Immigration law that an immigrant who receives one or more public benefits. The federal government announced a new proposal to certain immigrants to be considered as “public charge” for immigration purposes. If this proposal is adopted, it would bar some immigrants from becoming a U.S. citizen or a visa if they use certain public benefits or the federal government believes they will likely rely on public benefits in the future.

The proposed rule change in October 2018 could make it harder for applicants for citizenship and some visas if they receive certain government benefits, including Medicaid (with some exceptions, such as emergency Medicaid); Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Low Income Subsidy for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D; Section 8; and public housing. It is also proposing to look more closely at an applicant’s age, education, employment history, income, savings, property, health conditions, and other factors.

There is NO “public charge” test in the citizenship application process.

At the time of January 2019, it is only a proposal, nothing has changed. The public was able to comment on this new proposal until December 10, 2018, and over 210,000 comments were submitted during the period. 

Consult a free, trusted legal adviser if you have questions about how this proposal may affect you. Call the New Americans Hotline, operated by Catholic Charities, at 1-800-566-7636. To make an appointment with a free, trusted immigration legal services provider, call ActionNYC at 1-800-354-0365.


For more information please visit NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, and Public Charge Information Sheet