Strong Families LA

Preparing for Public Charge


visita esta página en Español

What is “Public Charge”?

The “Public Charge” test is used by federal immigration officials to determine if a person can enter the U.S. with a visa or get a Green Card (Lawful Permanent Residency). Under the new rule, anyone applying for Lawful Permanent Residency or a visa — whether trying to enter the U.S. or those already living here — could be rejected if an immigration officer decides they are likely to use certain public benefits. Although it was expected to be implemented on October 15, federal courts have stopped implementation of the rule for now . 


If the updated Public Charge rule is implemented in the future, immigration officials will now look more closely at factors like health, age, income, and English language skills when reviewing applications. 


They will also look at whether you have used essential services such as:

• CalFresh (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program “SNAP”, “EBT” or “Food Stamps”)

• Federal Public Housing and Section 8 assistance

• Medicaid (except for emergency services, children under 21 years, pregnant women,

and new mothers)

• Cash assistance programs (like SSI, TANF, General Assistance)

The threat of this looming rule change has understandably spread fear among the immigrant community, leading many individuals to forego necessary public services to survive. However, it is important to know the facts about this rule:

  • An individual’s access to state-funded programs, other than cash assistance, are not considered.

  • LA County programs My Health LA and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are not considered

  • Only benefits used by the person applying for a visa or a Green Card can be considered — not benefits used by family members.

Who is and who is not impacted by the Public Charge rule?

Individuals applying for a Visa or Lawful Permanent Residency (Green card or LPR status) from either inside or outside the U.S. will be impacted by the rule unless they are exempt. Individuals who already have a Green card or who may be applying for a renewal would not be impacted. Benefits used by children will not be used against their parents. 

The Public Charge test will not impact individuals who have — or are applying for — U.S. citizenship. Many immigrants are exempt including people applying for or renewing TPS, people applying for or holding a U or T Visa, individuals with Asylum or Refugee status, or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Many survivors of domestic violence are also exempt, including self-petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

When does the Public Charge rule go into effect?

The rule was expected to be implemented on October 15, however, federal courts have stopped implementation of the rule for now . If and when it is implemented , these new changes will not be applied by immigration officials until then. These changes would apply only to applications that are postmarked or submitted electronically on or after the date the rule goes into effect.

There are currently several legal challenges to the Public Charge rule pending in the courts, which means it is possible that the rule will be blocked or delayed from being implemented.

How will the Public Charge rule affect local families?

L.A. families, communities, and our economy may be hit hardest of all. As a result of the rule, immigrant children and parents may be afraid to see doctors, while others will struggle to keep a roof over their heads or secure the meals they need. These shocks will have an impact on all of us:

  • In L.A. County, just over 200,000 immigrant Angelenos currently receive TANF, SNAP, and Section 8 benefits;

  • The estimated annual cost to our local economy if 25% of immigrant households in LA County forgo benefits would be $54,020,736 for SNAP (CalFresh) and $8,458,560 for TANF (CalWORKs);

  • 8,050 immigrants receive Section 8 benefits in the City of Los Angeles;

  • According to the Center for American Progress, if every single American were to examine their financial eligibility according to this new rule, 100 million Americans — one third of the population — would fail.

What if I have questions about my family’s situation?

If you have questions about how this rule could impact you or your family, you can reach out to a non-profit for legal advice.

Visit this link to find an organization near you.

Read Mayor Garcetti’s letter

Mayor Garcetti sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security during the 60 day comment period in 2018. In the letter, he explained how this change would upend the lives of 1.5 million immigrants in our city, hit L.A.’s economy, force families to go without basic necessities, and punish American-born children and penalize immigrants who are here legally and simply want a safe place to find a job, make a living, and raise a family.

Read the letter.

Additional resources

The Protecting Immigrant Families campaign has a number of online resources available for individuals hoping to learn more about the Public Charge rule.

You can visit their website by following this link.