Use of Public Benefits May Jeopardize Your Green Card Eligibility


Are you applying for a green card? If your application is submitted or postmarked on or after February 24, 2020, USCIS will apply a new rule to your case. Permanent residency will not be possible for applicants who don’t adhere to these requirements.

The rule allows immigration officers to screen green card applicants against the “public charge” ground of inadmissibility. Due to the Trump administration’s concern that immigrants rely too heavily upon public benefits (despite the fact that evidence supports the contrary), officers can now deny permanent residency based on the belief that the applicant may become a public charge at some point in the future.

To determine this ground of inadmissibility, officers assess a wide variety of factors. Unless you are exempt from the rule, you will need to submit information about your use of (or application for) public benefits.

Applicable benefits may include:

  • Cash assistance (e.g. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, and General Assistance for income maintenance)
  • SNAP/food stamps
  • Certain housing/rental assistance programs
  • Medicaid

USCIS officers will evaluate your use of these benefits in addition to your age, health, education/skills, employment, and financial resources. After assessing all details, the officers will determine whether you are or are likely to become a public charge (i.e. someone who relies on the government for assistance).


Not all applicants are subject to this rule, and not every type of benefit is considered. You will not be evaluated for public charge inadmissibility if you are a refugee, asylee, or applicant under VAWA or for a T or U nonimmigrant visa.

Whether or not you are one of these exempt classes, DHS will not evaluate your use of the following types of benefits:

  • Emergency assistance for medical conditions
  • Disaster relief
  • Certain nutritional/school lunch programs
  • Adoption or foster care support
  • Food pantries/homeless shelters
  • Student/mortgage loans subsidized by the government
  • The Children’s Health Insurance Program
  • Energy assistance programs
  • Head Start

Furthermore, USCIS will only consider benefits used/applied for on or after February 24, 2020. The public charge rule would have gone into effect on October 15, 2020, but courts throughout the country enjoined it (i.e. prevented DHS from implementing the rule). The Supreme Court eliminated the last of the injunctions on February 21, 2020.

Let Us Help You with Your Permanent Residency Plan

If you believe the public charge rule may prevent you from acquiring a green card, The E.A. Wood Law Firm is here to help. We are proud to protect the rights of immigrants, and we believe you should have full access to the opportunities in the United States no matter your financial circumstances. We can help you understand how the public charge rule may affect you and develop a strategy to help you achieve your goal of permanent residency. Reach out to our immigration attorneys as soon as possible!

Get started on your case by scheduling an initial consultation. Call (800) 611-0821 today!