Q: Is there a new rule about how getting government benefits will affect an immigrant’s ability to become a lawful permanent resident?
A: No. The media reported a draft Executive Order that might change the rules about the “public charge” test for immigrants. But, that draft Executive Order was not signed. The rules about immigrants using public benefits have not changed. We don’t know if or when President Trump will sign an Executive Order on public charge, and we don’t know what will change until we see what he signs.
Q: What is the “public charge” rule?
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can use the “public charge” rule to deny a person’s application for lawful permanent residence (“green card”) if it believes that the person will depend mostly on government support in the future. USCIS looks at many things, including whether the person gets cash aid, like CalWORKs, General Assistance, CAPI, or SSI, to decide if the person will depend on government help in the future. USCIS does not look at food and health benefits such as CalFresh (food stamps), WIC, and Medi-Cal for the public charge test unless you are in a nursing home. President Trump has not yet changed this rule. If he does change it, we will update this website.
Q: Does the public charge rule apply to all immigrants?
A: No. The public charge rule does not apply to people who are already permanent residents and are applying for citizenship. It also does not apply to U VISA, SIJS, VAWA, and many other types of immigration cases.
Q: If I am already getting food or health benefits, should I cancel them now?
A: If you are already getting food or health benefits, there is little additional risk in continuing to receive them until something changes. If a new Executive Order changes the public charge rules to include these benefits if they are received in the future, you can cancel your benefits. If a new Executive Order tells USCIS to look at food and medical benefits even if they were received in the past, you’ve already been receiving them and a few additional months probably won’t make a big difference.
Q: Is there anything I should do now if I am receiving government benefits?
If you receive any public benefits, you should be careful to report your income correctly and timely to avoid overpayments and potential fraud charges. Be aware of your Income Reporting Threshold (IRT) amount and report your income immediately if it reaches that amount, even if it’s in between your regular report dates. Being accused of fraud (not telling the truth about your situation in order to get more benefits) can affect your immigration options.
Please look back at this site for any future changes.
(This is not meant to be specific legal advice. If you have specific questions, please contact LIBRE for an appropriate referral)
By Hope Nakamura