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The Public Charge Rule


The Supreme Court cleared the way for the Trump administration to make it more difficult for low-income immigrants seeking to come to or trying to remain legally in the United States.

The public charge rule impacts people who rely on public assistance, including most forms of Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers. Under current regulations put in place in 1996, the term is defined as someone who is "primarily dependent" on government assistance, meaning it supplies more than half their income. But it only counted cash benefits, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Supplemental Security Income from Social Security. The administration's new rule widens the definition of who is expected to be dependent on the government by including more benefit programs.


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will implement the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds final rule (“Final Rule”) on Feb. 24, 2020, except for in the State of Illinois where the rule remains enjoined by a federal court as of Jan. 30, 2020. Under the Final Rule, USCIS will look at the factors required under the law by Congress, like an alien’s age, health, income, education and skills, among others, in order to determine whether the alien is likely at any time to become a public charge.

USCIS will post updated forms, submission instructions, and Policy Manual guidance on the USCIS website during the week of Feb. 3, 2020, to give applicants, petitioners, and others ample time to review updated procedures and adjust filing methods. After Feb. 24, 2020, everywhere except in the State of Illinois, USCIS will reject prior editions of forms if the form is postmarked on or after Feb. 24, 2020. If USCIS receives an application or petition for benefits using incorrect editions of the forms, USCIS will inform the applicant or petitioner of the need to submit a new application or petition using the correct forms.

USCIS will continue to release information through its website in the weeks leading to the rule’s implementation date, including in the event that the injunction Illinois is lifted. This will include an update to the USCIS Policy Manual.

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