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Information for immigrant families: Public Charge policy changes start October 15, 2019

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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a new public charge rule, which will go into effect on October 15th.  The rule includes a requirement that immigrants seeking a change in status (i.e., a green card) “must demonstrate that they have not, since obtaining the nonimmigrant status they seek to extend or change, received public benefits” over various thresholds defined in the rule.

Here is some important information for the IINE community to know: 

  • This new policy does not impact refugees, asylees, VAWA, U/T visas, SIVs, Cuban/Haitian entrants, NACARA, or people with existing TPS status.
  • The “public charge” policy will impact immigrants currently without green cards (permanent resident status) who are also receiving public benefits or participating in federally-funded public support programs.
  • Public charge” rule will become an issue when, after October 14,  an immigrant first applies for their green card through a family petition or for a non-immigrant visa such as a student or fiancé visa. It does not apply to people applying for citizenship or to renew a green card.
  • After that date, someone who is receiving public benefits: Medicaid (with exceptions for emergency services, and coverage of children under age 21, and pregnant women), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),  Public Housing, Section 8 housing vouchers, Project-Based Section 8, or Cash assistance under SSI, TANF will have a difficult time obtaining their first green card.
  • If the public charge test does not apply to you, it could impact your ability to petition for a family member in the future.
  • If you are looking to apply for a green card for the first time for yourself or a family member, we recommend that you acquire legal help immediately. Do not wait, because your application MUST be postmarked before October 14, 2019, and the application process can take several weeks.
    You can reach IINE’s Legal Services team at: 617.695.9990 or online: