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DHS to Begin Implementing Public Charge Rule on Feb. 24

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), announced that it will begin enforcing the public charge final rule on Feb. 24 nationwide except for in Illinois.

Specifically, DHS will evaluate applications for immigration benefits postmarked or submitted electronically on or after Feb. 24. In applying the public charge test, DHS will not consider any newly added public benefit categories that the applicant received before Feb. 24, including nonemergency Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and various federal housing programs.

USCIS notes it will post updated forms, instructions, and policy manual guidance on its website the week of Feb. 3.

Details of Rule

DHS’ final rule on inadmissibility on public charge grounds expanded the types of public benefits immigration officials consider when determining whether an individual is likely to become a “public charge.”

Under immigration law, individuals seeking to enter or who reside legally in the United States and apply for a green card (adjustment of status) must demonstrate they are not likely to become a public charge in the future. The final rule expanded the types of benefits considered in making a public charge determination to include nonemergency Medicaid (with limited exemptions), nutritional benefits, and housing benefits. Under the rule, DHS is to evaluate whether an applicant for a green card is likely to receive any of these benefits for more than 12 months in aggregate within any 36-month period. The public charge determination applies to individuals seeking permanent resident status (a green card), as well as those seeking an adjustment or change in their nonimmigrant (temporary) status.

Legal Challenges

The final rule was set to take effect Oct. 15 until multiple federal district courts halted, or enjoined, the rule pending final resolution of lawsuits brought against DHS. Last week, however, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the rule to take effect until the district courts make final decisions on the legal merits of the lawsuits.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at or 202.585.0127 with questions.


About the Author

Shahid Zaman is a senior policy analyst at America's Essential Hospitals.

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