In the United States, the government defines a public charge as an immigrant likely to become dependent on the government for financial assistance. The public charge rule is prevalent in immigration cases and is one of the main causes of visa applications being denied in the U.S.

Public charge dates back to 1882 when Congress established the rule as a way to deny visas to any immigrant who was unable to take care of themselves and therefore became reliant on government assistance intended for U.S. citizens and permanent residents only. It is one of the grounds for the inadmissibility of immigrants. Public charge laws have been redefined and expanded over the years but the most recent ruling took place in 2022. If a green card applicant is determined to be inadmissible, their admission into the United States is not granted. If you have questions or need representation for your immigration case, a skillful NYC family immigration attorney may be able to help.

What Are the Specifics of the Latest Public Charge Rule?

Public charges have been examined and redefined multiple times since their inception, most recently in 2022. In December of 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) amended the regulations of inadmissibility due to public charge violations. This new rule did away with the vague and generalized definition of a public charge proposed in 2019, narrowed down the specifics of the types of benefits that would constitute a public charge, and expanded on what it means for a person to be “likely” to become dependent on government services.

The public benefit programs that are considered when determining if an immigrant meets the standards of a public charge include:

  • SSI (Supplemental Security Income)
  • TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)
  • State and local general assistance programs

Long-term care may be considered if it was funded by the government, such as nursing homes or mental health facilities.

How Can I Avoid Inadmissibility?

When applying for a green card, apply with a signed Affidavit of Support. An affidavit of support is a document that a sponsor can sign to agree to take on the financial responsibility of a green card applicant. A sponsor is typically a spouse or relative of the applicant but can be anyone over the age of 18 who meets the requirements of being a U.S. citizen, having a residence within the U.S., and meeting an income minimum.

The affidavit, otherwise referred to as Form I-864, is a legally binding contract between the signer and the United States government. The sponsor agrees to financially support the applicant so that they will not become a public charge and rely on public benefits that are designated for U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

A sponsor is responsible for keeping the applicant financially secure until the applicant becomes a citizen, works 40 quarters in the U.S., decides to move out of the U.S. permanently, or either the applicant or sponsor dies.