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NON-CITIZENS - PUBLIC CHARGE

ISSUE DATE: 04/2013

A non-citizen may be denied admission to the United States, or adjustment of status, or under rare circumstances deported, if the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines that the non-citizen has become, or is likely to become, primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance or institutionalization for long term care at government expense. This “public charge” determination has been part of immigration law for more than 100 years.

The public charge determination for non-citizens present in the United States is the responsibility of USCIS, and county workers must never make it part of the determination of eligibility for assistance. Every determination by USCIS is made on a case-by-case basis and must include several factors besides the receipt of cash assistance.

There are several key factors that USCIS takes into account regarding public charge determinations:

The receipt of SNAP and Health Care (EXCEPT for long term care) is NOT taken into account. Other programs, such as WIC, school lunch programs, housing services, LIHEAP, child care, and job training programs are not cash assistance programs.

Refugees and asylees, and certain others in similar circumstances, are exempt from public charge determinations.


Non-citizens should not be encouraged to apply for cash assistance that they have not requested, because it may negatively affect their status with USCIS.

If non-citizens have questions regarding the impact of the receipt of cash assistance on the public charge determination, encourage them to seek legal advice.

Receipt of public cash assistance or institutionalization for long term care at government expense by sponsored non-citizens may negatively affect their USCIS status. See 0011.03.15 (Non-Citizens - LPR With Sponsors).

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