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The final rule on public charge was published on September 9, 2022. The 1999 “field guidance” is the previous public charge policy. The public charge guidance that we have had for more than two decades has been strengthened by the new rule. On March 9, 2021, the government stopped following the Trump-era rule. Since 1999, the prior guidance has been in effect.  

When the new rule goes into effect, it is safe for immigrants and their families to use health, nutrition, and housing programs for which they qualify. The final rule does not expand eligibility for Medicaid, CHIP, or other benefits to more people but clarifies DHS policy regarding recipients  

Medicaid and COVID care, housing, food programs, and many other vital services are safe to use. Testing, treatment, and preventative services for COVID-19 are not included in the public charge. The stimulus checks are not part of the public charge. USCIS noted that the type of public benefits used are considered when making public charge inadmissibility determinations are included on the Public Charge Resources page. 

 Many eligible immigrants can pursue legal status without fear of being charged a public charge. Only those who are likely to be dependent on cash aid for income maintenance or long-term care at government expense could be denied. The public charge test only applies to some programs.  

The new rule also is clear that the public charge rule does not apply to U.S. citizens, including the spouse or the children of immigrants. A family member’s use of public programs does not affect their immigration applications. Therefore, when making a determination whether an immigrant will likely become a public charge, USCIS will not include any public assistance used by an immigrant’s family members when making the final decision.  

Additionally, it doesn’t apply to most people with a green card, asylees, refugees, people with U visas, and many others. The new rule includes a helpful list of the categories of noncitizens who are exempt from a public charge determination, including people applying for or granted asylum, refugee status, or TPS, and Afghan or Iraqi special immigrant visa holders. VAWA self-petitioners and survivors who have applied for or been granted T or U status are generally exempt from a public charge assessment, regardless of their ultimate pathway to a green card.  

This final rule assists in reversing the previous administration’s 2019 public charge rule, which had the harmful effect of discouraging many immigrants from seeking benefits for which they, their children, or their families were eligible, out of fear of jeopardizing their immigration status. 

This chilling effect extended even to those categories of noncitizens who, by law, are exempt from the public charge ground of inadmissibility. With the publication of the final rule, the Biden-Harris Administration is continuing its efforts to reverse these harmful effects and ensure that these programs remain accessible for eligible individuals and families in need. 

If you have questions and would like to schedule a consultation to discuss your case, please contact our office at 813-422-5912.

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