Our purpose is to inform the relevant facts about the public charge rule to lessen the confusion and fear that many immigrant workers have regarding that rule. After reading this article, we hope that you will be able to make informed decisions about what public benefits or programs you can use, and that you can share what you learn in this article with others who may benefit from this information.
What is public charge?
A public charge is someone the government believed is likely to receive public benefits from the government. In other words, a person is likely to become dependent on the government for basic needs.
When does the government do a public charge test?
Only when YOU change or apply for a new immigration status.
What happens when a person is considered a public charge?
If a person is considered a public charge, this can affect their future ability to:
- Get a visa to enter the U.S.
- Get permanent residency (a “green card”)
- Change or renew status (does not apply to green holders or applications for citizenship)
Who can safely use public benefits?
If you have a status listed below, you can safely use public benefits:
- U.S. citizens
- Green card holders
- Refugee or asylee
- Special immigrant juvenile
- U or T visa (visas for victims of crimes)
- Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) approved self-petition
- Afghan and Iraqi employees of U.S. armed forces
- Members and families of the U.S. armed forces, ready reserves, or military serving in active duty
- Relief under Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) or the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA)
Are you undocumented?
You do not need or are not required to show your immigration status or social security number when you apply for public benefits for family members or when you are requesting discounted rates at community health clinics.
What are the public benefits considered in a public charge test?
- BadgerCare Plus Healthcare (Medicaid or ForwardHealth) for adults. Except anyone under age 21, Emergency Services for adults and children, or care for pregnant women until 60 days after birth of the baby.
- Assisted living or nursing home facility, or home care paid for by a Medicaid long-term care program
- Food assistance from Food Share (food stamps, QUEST, or EBT)
- Cash benefits from Wisconsin Works (W2) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Housing assistance from Public Housing or Section 8
Use of public benefit programs not on this list will not be considered by immigration officials.
Use of public programs does not automatically make you a public charge
When deciding if a person is likely to become a public charge, immigration officials look at variety of factors, including:
- Work, skills, and education
- Income, assets, and resources
- Public benefits usage
- Family size
- Affidavit of support
When should you seek legal assistance?
Many people eligible for benefits are not directly impacted by this new rule, but if a person is unsure, a lawyer can help them understand how each part of the public charge test may affect their family.
Free and low-cost legal options for legal help can be found at www.coveringwi.org/immigration
Key take home messages
- Most immigrants can safely use public benefits
- Many public programs are not considered in the public charge test
- Benefits used by family members will not count in public charge decisions
- Use of public programs does not automatically make you a public charge
- Testing, treatment, or preventive care for COVID-19 not counted against person
Legal Services for Immigrants who Use Public Benefits — Here you can find a list of free and low-cost legal services available in Wisconsin.
New immigration rules and public benefits in Wisconsin — Here you can find a summary of the same information that we have presented in this article, which you can download and print.
Benefit program not included in public charge — Here you can find a list of public benefits related to health care, food programs, school assistance, childcare programs, programs for children with disabilities, COVID-19 programs, and other programs.
If you need this information translated into a language other than Spanish, English please contact us. You can call us at (608) 224-3708 or (608) 224-3704