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We’re Here to Help. Get the Facts.
Rules about public benefits and immigrants are confusing. But benefits can help your family stay healthy and thrive. Learn more or use our guide to see how public benefits could affect different immigration options.
    
About This Site

Benefits experts and immigration lawyers created this site to help you understand:

  • if there is a Public Charge test for your immigration plans or status, and
  • if any public benefits are a problem for immigration.

Our Partners:
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CA-Protecting Immigration Families
What are Public Benefits and Public Charge?
Most immigrants who face a Public Charge test don't get the benefits that are a problem.
Public Benefits

Here, public benefits mean help from the government for basic needs like:

  • health care
  • housing
  • food
  • cash

Public benefits can be from the federal, state, or local government. Not everyone qualifies for public benefits. And not every public benefit is in the Public Charge rules.

Public Charge

Some immigration applications have a "Public Charge" test. An immigration officer uses this test to decide if a person is likely to use certain public benefits in the future. The immigration officer must consider the person’s:

  • health
  • age
  • education and skills
  • family and sponsor income
  • use of certain public benefits

The officers can deny the application if they think the person is likely to use certain public benefits in the future. Not all immigration applications have a Public Charge test. And not all public benefits are included in the Public Charge rules.

Changes to Public Charge and Public Benefits

The federal government recently tried to change the public charge rules. Courts have stopped the changes. There are also different rules for immigrants applying through a U.S. consulate.

Do Public Benefits Affect Immigration Options?
Who is Affected by the Public Charge Rule?
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The Public Charge Rule does not apply to:
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  • U.S. Citizens or people applying for citizenship.
  • Permanent Residents (Green card holders) unless the Green card holder leaves the U.S. for more than six months. A Public Charge rule can apply when they try to return.
  • People applying for Green card renewal, DACA renewal, TPS, U or T Visas, Asylum or Refugee status, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, or VAWA.
  • People who have a U or T Visa, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, VAWA or Asylum/Refugee status. For a longer list, click here.
  • People applying for a Green card based on a U or T Visa, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, VAWA or Asylum/Refugee status. For a longer list, click here.
The Public Charge Rule may apply to:
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  • Immigrants applying for Permanent Residence (Green card) through a family-based petition.
  • Permanent Residents who leave the U.S. for more than six months.
  • A slightly different rule applies to some "nonimmigrants" applying to change or extend their status. Example: student visas.

For more information, click here.

Which Public Benefits are included in the Public Charge Rule?
The Public Charge rule may include these benefits used by the immigrant:
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  • Cash assistance -
    • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
    • CalWORKs/Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
    • CAPI (Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants)
    • General relief / assistance
  • Medi-Cal/Medicaid for long-term nursing home care

The Public Charge rules mainly look at the benefits used by the person applying for a Green card through a family petition. The rule does not look at benefits used by family members. And most applicants generally don't qualify for the benefits in the Public Charge rule. There are different rules for applicants who must go outside of the U.S. for their Green card interview.

Different Rules Outside the United States
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The rules are different for people who have their Green card interview outside the U.S. for:

  • family-based petitions or
  • some nonimmigrant visas.

The consulate officer can look at more benefits. The government may change that list of benefits soon.

Many Public Benefits are not included in the Public Charge Rule
Everyone needs health care.
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These benefits will not affect immigration options:

Medi-Cal/Medicaid*, other Medi-Cal programs (for children under 21, emergencies, before and after birth, State-funded Medi-Cal programs), California Children's Services, Covered California, Medicare subsidies, and county hospitals and clinics.

*Note: Medicaid might affect a few immigrants who have a family-based Green card interview outside the U.S. But most immigrants who face a Public Charge test only get state-funded Medi-Cal/Medicaid. Check with a lawyer if you have questions.
 

For more information, click here.

We all need a place to live
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These benefits do not affect immigration options:

  • Federal Public Housing/Section 8 assistance*
  • Local shelters
  • Locally funded housing assistance
*Note: Federal Public Housing/Section 8 might affect a few immigrants who have a family-based Green card interview outside the U.S. But most immigrants who face a Public Charge test are not eligible for Federal Public Housing/Section 8. Check with a lawyer if you have questions.
 

For more information, click here.

Good nutrition is always important
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These benefits will not affect immigration options:

  • CalFresh/SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)*
  • State-funded CalFresh/CFAP
  • Food pantry programs
  • Child Nutrition Programs
    • Women, Infant and Children (WIC)
    • School Lunches and Breakfast
*Note: CalFresh/SNAP might affect a few immigrants who have a family-based Green card interview outside the U.S. But most immigrants who face a Public Charge test are not eligible for CalFresh. Check with a lawyer if you have questions.
 

For more information, click here.

Your rights as a worker are protected
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These benefits will not affect immigration options:
  • Unemployment
  • Social Security Retirement/Disability
  • Workers compensation
  • Tax credits

For more information, click here.

Do Public Benefits Affect Immigration Options?
Answer a few questions to see if public benefits affect different immigration options. The guide is safe and private. There are no personal questions. The results can help you decide what is best for you and your family.
The Process
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  • We never share information with the government.

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