What does the public charge rule mean for hardworking immigrants?

It can cost a lot of money to secure a visa and then travel to the United States of America to try to start a new life. Immigrants often intend to work hard in order to recoup those expenses and set themselves or their children up for a better life in the United States.

If something unexpected happens, like a sudden illness or a car crash, an immigrant who has been working hard since their arrival in the United States may find themselves at need of certain state benefits. Unfortunately, those very benefits that can help someone bridge a period of financial hardship can also impact their immigration status and rights.

While there has always been a rule about immigration limitations for those who might become a public charge, the enforcement of this rule has recently received significant attention. If you find yourself needing support between jobs or after an injury or illness, you will likely worry that the benefits you receive could prevent you from securing a Green Card.

Which benefit programs could potentially affect your immigration status?

Not all benefits that an immigrant receives will trigger the public charge rule. Certain earned benefits, like unemployment, will not affect the public charge rule.

However, other benefits, like federal Medicaid, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps), Supplemental Security Income and cash assistance or Welfare could count against someone for the purpose of public charge considerations. Section 8 housing benefits, as well as public housing, will also have implications for the public charge rule.

How many months can you receive benefits without public charge issues?

Currently, the standard for the public charge rule involves 12 months of state benefits. Each benefit that you receive each month counts as one of those months, even if you receive the benefit for only part of the month.

If you only receive Medicaid, you could have benefits for 11 months without it impacting your immigration status. However, if you have four different forms of benefits due to extreme hardship, you will reach the cutoff for those benefits after just three months.

Understanding the public charge rule can help you make better decisions about the social safety net and how you utilize it as an immigrant in the United States.