“Public charge” is a ground of inadmissibility. Grounds of inadmissibility are reasons that a person could be denied a green card, visa, or admission into the United States. In deciding whether to grant some applicants a green card or a visa, an immigration officer must decide whether that person is likely to become dependent on certain government benefits in the future, which would make them a “public charge.”

The Department of Homeland Security makes the public charge determination based on the individual’s ‘totality of the circumstances,’ which includes the applicant’s income, employment, health, education or skills, family situation, the family/sponsor income, and whether a person has used certain public benefit programs.


Which Immigrants are Impacted by Public Charge?

Public charge does not apply to all immigrants. This law mainly impacts those seeking permanent resident status through family member petitions. Many immigrant categories are exempt from the public charge ground of inadmissibility, even if they might be applying for status or a green card. Public charge DOES NOT apply to:

  • Asylees or refugees
  • T visa holders
  • U visas for certain crimes
  • Individuals applying for or granted status under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
  • Special immigrant juveniles
  • Current green card holders who are seeking U.S. citizenship. However, green card holders who leave the country for more than six months and who seek re return to the U.S. may be subject to the public charge rule.


Which Public Benefits are INCLUDED in the Public Charge Determination?

Public benefits used in determining public charge include:

  • Cash benefits like SSI, MFIP, and General Assistance
  • SNAP, Food Stamps and EBT
  • Medicaid with some exceptions
  • Federal public housing/Section 8


Which Public Benefits are EXCLUDED in the Public Charge Determination?

Some of the benefits excluded from the public charge determination are:

  • WIC
  • Unemployment
  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Medicare
  • Medicaid for children under 21, pregnant women
  • Minnesota Care
  • CHIP
  • Emergency Medical Assistance (EMA)
  • Child care
  • Head Start
  • Food banks
  • Shelters
  • School meals
  • Immunizations
  • Public health testing/treatment for communicable diseases



Before taking any action regarding the use of public benefits, such as disenrolling from a public benefit program or not enrolling for a benefit when entitled, you should contact an immigration expert. Please call us at (763) 951-2235 to request a consult.