Immigration Attorney in Los Angeles Received Public Benefits It Could Affect Your Ability to Immigrate to the US

Received Public Benefits? It Could Affect Your Ability to Immigrate to the U.S.

This post is also available in: Español

It’s long been the immigration policy of the United States to deny immigration applicants when they are determined to be a public charge or likely to become a public charge. However, the policy up until recently included a narrower definition of who was to be considered a “public charge” or “likely to become a public charge”. 

On August 14, 2019 the “final rule” on the public charge inadmissibility ground was made, severely limiting those who can immigrate to the U.S. based on income standards and the use of public benefits. If you have used public benefits or are determined likely to use them in the future, it could result in a denial of your immigration application.

What should you do?  

First read the below explanation of the rule. If you think you are likely to be determined inadmissible, then you should submit your immigration application before October 15, 2019 when the new rule goes into effect. Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with your case.

Who does this rule affect?

This rule affects pretty much anyone wishing to immigrate to the United States, permanently or temporarily.

  • People seeking immigrant (permanent) or nonimmigrant (temporary) visas abroad
  • People seeking admission to the United States on immigrant or nonimmigrant visas
  • People seeking to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident from within the United States

Which public benefits are included in the rule?

The following benefits are listed in the rule. If you have used or are likely to use any of the listed benefits, you might be considered inadmissible.

  • Any federal, state, local, or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance   
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) 
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) 
  • Federal, state or local cash benefit programs for income maintenance (often called “General Assistance” in the state context, but which may exist under other names)  
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or formerly called “Food Stamps”) 
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program 
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation)  
  • Public Housing under section 9 the Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C. 1437 et seq. 
  • Federally funded Medicaid (with certain exclusions) 

Are there exceptions to the rule?

Some classes of immigrants are exempt from the public charge ground of inadmissibility. These include:

  • Refugees
  • Asylees
  • Afghans and Iraqis with special immigrant visas 
  • People enlisted in the U.S. armed forces, serving on active duty, or in any of the Ready Reserve components of the U.S. armed forces, and the spouse and children of such service members. 

The rule also makes exceptions to benefits received under the following circumstances:

  • The receipt of Medicaid for the treatment of an emergency medical condition;  
  • Services or benefits funded by Medicaid but provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act;  
  • School-based services or benefits provided to individuals who are at or below the oldest age eligible for secondary education as determined under state or local law;  
  • Medicaid benefits received by an applicant under 21 years of age; or  
  • Medicaid benefits received by a woman during pregnancy and during the 60-day period beginning on the last day of the pregnancy.  

How long must you have been using public benefits in order to be determined inadmissible?

If you received public benefits for a total of 12 months or more within a 36-month period, then you would be considered inadmissible. Note that the receipt of two benefits in one month counts as two months.

However, the rule also states that any duration of public benefits can be considered.

How do they determine if you are “likely to become a public charge”?

Under the final rule, “likely at any time to become a public charge” means more likely than not at any time in the future. In other words, it’s determined that a person is more likely than not to receive one or more of the designated public benefits for more than 12 months within any 36-month period.

To make this determination, the USCIS officer will consider your: 

  • Age
  • Health 
  • Family status 
  • Assets, resources, and financial status 
  • Education and skills
  • Prospective immigration status 
  • Expected period of admission
  • Sufficient Form I-864, Affidavit of Support when required

You are “likely to become a public charge” if…

These factors weigh heavily in favor of a determination that someone is likely to become a public charge in the future.

  • You are not a full-time student and are authorized to work but cannot show current employment, recent employment history, or a reasonable prospect of future employment. 
  • You have received, or have been certified or approved to receive, one or more public benefits for more than 12 months within any 36-month period, beginning no earlier than 36 months before you applied for admission or adjustment of status. 
  • You have been diagnosed with a medical condition that is likely to require extensive medical treatment or institutionalization or that will interfere with your ability to provide for yourself, attend school, or work and you are uninsured and have neither the prospect of obtaining private health insurance nor the financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs related to a medical condition. 
  • You have previously been found by an immigration judge or the Board of Immigration Appeals to be inadmissible or deportable based on public charge grounds.  

You are NOT “likely to become a public charge” if…

The following factors would weigh heavily against a finding that a person is likely to become a public charge in the future.

  • You have household income, assets, resources, and support from a sponsor, excluding any income from illegal activities or from public benefits, of at least 250% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for your household size. 
  • You are authorized to work and are currently employed in a legal industry with an annual income of at least 250% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for a household of your household size. 
  • You have private health insurance appropriate for the expected period of admission, so long as you do not receive subsidies in the form of premium tax credits under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to pay for such health insurance. 

Immigration Help: Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds 

If you have any questions about your immigration application, I'd be happy to help. I’m a dedicated and passionate immigration attorney, fluent in English and Spanish, located in the Los Angeles area. Call (310) 803-3040 or visit to schedule an appointment.

I have never met a person as determined and focused to help her community, as Attorney Abaud

I have never met a person as determined and focused to help her community, as Attorney Abaud. She cares about every single detail of any case. It was a pleasure and honor to work with her for many years. I learned a lot from her.

Angela P. , Los Angeles, CA

About the Author Sharon Abaud Esq.

Si usted tiene cualquier pregunta sobre cuestiones o casos de inmigración, me encantaría poder ayudarle. Soy una abogada de inmigración dedicada y apasionada, con gran dominio del idioma inglés y español. Ubicada en el área de Los Ángeles. Su caso de inmigración es importante para mi.

follow me on: