On January 8, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decided to keep blocking the implementation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) changes to the “public charge” test. The test is used to deny admission to the United States or refuse an application for lawful permanent resident status (a “green card”). The court rulings mean that for immigrants seeking green cards in the U.S., the old rules apply-- they can keep using Medi-Cal/Medicaid, CalFresh/food stamps, and federal housing programs that help their families stay healthy. And family members can continue to receive cash benefits without affecting a relative’s green card application unless the benefits are the family’s only income.
The court ruling does not affect the public charge decisions made by the Department of State (DOS). People applying for a green card through a U.S. consulate face a different rule, which is in the process of changing. Those who expect to apply for a visa or have their green card interviews outside the U.S. should consult an immigration lawyer.