Public Charge Screener for Advocates

Screening Tool and Attorney Referral Information for Community-Based, Social Services, and Advocacy Organizations

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Disclaimer: This document is not legal advice, and does not substitute for the advice of an immigration expert.

Overview: To assist you in answering client questions about how receiving government benefits may affect their immigration status, this app contains the following tools:

• A screening tool that staff members from community, social services, and advocacy organizations can use to help answer clients’ questions about whether receiving government benefits will affect their immigration status.

• A list of frequently asked questions and answers that will help you respond to client questions relating to the receipt of government benefits and expected changes to the rules.

• Lawyer referral information. Some issues require a lawyer's expertise. If the person you are screening does not already have a lawyer and your organization does not have legal staff or partners available to answer client questions, this packet contains information about how to reach a lawyer, and in what circumstances a lawyer's help may be especially important.

Here's some more information you can read before getting started.

What is "public charge"?

Public charge is a technical legal term used in immigration law. It is part of a screening process used by U.S. immigration officials with non-citizens who are applying for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, commonly also called getting a green card. If someone is considered to be a public charge or likely to become a public charge they won’t be able to get a green card. Changes are expected to the law, but for now, the rules have not changed. Because the change in rules is being covered a lot in the news, some non- citizen clients may fear applying for or continuing to receive government benefits.

Understand that as of now,* though the government has proposed changes in the rules, nothing has actually changed for non-citizens seeking to apply for a green card in the U.S.

The public charge rules have already changed for people seeking a visa to enter the U.S. from the U.S. Consulate in their home country.

Does public charge affect all non-citizens?

No. USCIS does not screen all noncitizens who are applying for, or want to apply for, permanent resident status, to see whether they are or may become public charges. Noncitizens in certain exempt immigration classifications (discussed on page 2, below) are not subject to a public charge screening, nor will they be even if the proposed rule changes are adopted.

Do all public benefits count for public charge?

At least for now, not all public benefits put a non-citizen at risk of being classified as a public charge. Currently, the public charge evaluation considers the receipt of only two types of benefits: (1) cash benefits (cash welfare, SSI); and (2) government-funded long-term- institutional care (nursing home type care) as an indication that the person may be a public charge and so should not be allowed to become a permanent resident. However, the government is proposing to expand the list of benefits that would count for public charge.

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Federal / National New York
Areas of law
Benefits for immigrants Immigration status, work permits, travel papers