By Attorney Carlos Gamino

What is a Public Charge - Carlos Gamino

In immigration, a public charge is someone who’s likely to – or who already has – used certain public benefits for 12 months out of any 36-month period. Being a so-called public charge can affect a person’s immigration application, whether he or she wants to become a lawful permanent resident or a naturalized citizen. Here’s what you need to know.

What is a Public Charge?

The U.S. government considers someone to be a public charge if that person uses one or more of the following benefits for 12 months out of any 36-month period:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Any federal, state, local or tribal cash benefit programs for income maintenance
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation)
  • Public Housing
  • Federally funded Medicaid (with some exclusions)

That means if you’re a lawful permanent resident who has used Temporary Assistance for Needy Families for more than 12 months out of any 36-month period, you’re considered a public charge.

Who is Exempt From the Public Charge Rule?

Some people are automatically exempt from being considered public charges. These people include:

  • Refugees
  • Asylees
  • Afghans and Iraqis with special immigrant visas
  • Some nonimmigrant trafficking and crime victims
  • People who apply under the Violence Against Women Act
  • Special immigrant juveniles
  • Others who have received a waiver of public charge inadmissibility from the Department of Homeland Security

Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Lawful Permanent Resident Status or Adjustment of Status?

If you’re considering applying for a green card, or if you’re ready to apply to become a naturalized U.S. citizen – whether or not you’ve ever used public benefits – you may want to talk to an attorney about your case. Call us at 414-383-6700 to schedule your consultation today. We can provide you with the answers and legal guidance you need.

Carlos Gamino