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The Public Charge Rule – What it is and who may be affected.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finalized the “public charge” rule. If litigation does not prevent the rule from taking effect, the policy will become effective in 60 days, on October 15th 2019.  This is a complex issue that could affect many lower income families in our community.

Whether you’re an immigrant, advocate, or public benefits provider, it is essential that you help yourself and others make informed decisions by carefully reading the information below and contacting an immigration attorney or professional accredited by the Department of Justice with any questions or concerns.


Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County, Inc (CAB)
406 Main St Suite 207, Watsonville, CA 95076
CAB’s Immigration Project at (831) 724-5667.

Legal Immigration and Citizenship Program
Catholic Charities Diocese of the Monterey Bay
656 Main Street, Watsonville, CA 95076


  • The rule is not in effect yet. Any rule changes will apply only to applications submitted on or after October 15th, 2019.
  • Not everyone is subject to the rule. Many immigrants are exempt from the public charge inadmissibility ground.
  • Benefits used by family members, such as children, will not be counted against the applicant for immigration status.
  • an applicant for lawful permanent residency and/or someone applying to enter the U.S.
  • Every person’s situation is different. We urge you to consult with an immigration attorney, or a professional accredited by the Department of Justice, if you have questions about how use of public benefits may or may not affect your immigration status.
  • The fight is not over yet! County governments have already filed lawsuits against the new public charge rule, and immigration rights advocates plan to follow suit. Their litigation could delay the implementation of the rule or stop it entirely.

What is a Public Charge?

“Public charge” or the “public charge test” is used by immigration officials to decide whether a person can enter the U.S. or get a green card (lawful permanent resident status). In this test, officials look at all of a person’s circumstances, including income, employment, health, education or skills, family situation and whether a sponsor signed a contract (“affidavit of support”) promising to support the person. Officials can also look at whether a person has used certain public benefit programs (in the past, only cash assistance and long-term care were counted)” (PIF Campaign).

Public Charge DOES NOT Apply to:

  • People applying for Citizenship
  • Asylees
  • Refugees
  • Lawful Permanent Residents (unless they leave the country for 6+ months)
  • Lawful Permanent Residents seeking to renew their green cards
  • Survivors of Domestic Violence, Trafficking, or Other Serious Crimes (U or T Visa applicants / holders)
  • Applicants or holders of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
  • VAWA Self-petitioners
  • TPS recipients
  • DACA renewals

Public Charge Test DOES Apply When:

  • When someone applies to enter the U.S.
  • Applies to adjust status to become a Lawful Permanent Resident (aka obtaining a green card)
  • A green card holder leaves the US for more than 180 consecutive days (6 months) and reenters.

9 Public Benefits Count as “Negative” in New Public Charge test:

    • SSI (Social Security Income)
    • TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)
    • State general relief or general assistance
    • Benefits provided for institutionalization for long-term care
    • Medi-Cal (except for “emergency Medi-Cal;” benefits received while under age 21; and pregnancy benefits including 60 days post-pregnancy)
    • CalFresh (aka Food Stamps)
    • Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program
    • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance
    • Public Housing

What About Medi-Cal?

  • Emergency Medical does NOT count against you as a negative factor in the public charge test.
  • Only Full Scope Medi-Cal counts against you in the public charge test.
  • If you are under 21 and utilize full scope Medi-Cal, it will NOT count against you
  • If you are seeking pre-natal and post-natal care (up to 60 days after birth) through Medi-Cal, it will NOT count against you in the public charge test.

To view a complete copy of the rule visit: