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Public Charge: Frequently Asked Questions and Resource Links


Frequently Asked Questions: Public Charge Rule

August 2019

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has finalized a rule which makes it easier to deny an immigrant’s application to enter the United States, obtain a visa, or adjust their immigration status (i.e., obtain a Green Card) on the grounds that they are likely to become a ’’public charge." The public charge rule, which takes effect on October 15, 2019, has the potential to spread fear and confusion among immigrant communities who may wish to access public assistance. It has also prompted questions among county staff and other service providers who administer benefits. This document addresses common questions related to the rule and provides information about data privacy protections for people enrolled in programs administered by the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

What is a "public charge?" 

If an immigrant a pp lies to enter the United States, obtain a visa, or adjust their immigration status, immigration officials determine whether the applicant uses or is likely to use certain public benefits. Currently, the use of cash assistance programs (like Supplemental Security Income or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and publicly-funded long-term care are considered in a public charge determination. If the applicant uses or is likely to use these benefits, they may be considered a public charge. 

What does the rule change? 

The Department of Homeland Security’s rule expands the list of benefits to be considered when determining whether an applicant may be considered a public charge. These include the use of certain non-emergency Medicaid benefits, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and some public housing benefits. The rule is not retroactive and does not negatively consider any newly listed benefits that are used before October 15, 2019. Receipt of benefits for more than 12 months in a 36-month period will be considered a "heavily weighted negative factor." Using multiple benefits in one month can shorten this timeframe (for example, using three benefits in one month can count as three months of used benefits). The rule also requires the consideration of other specific factors such as income, age, and health status in public charge determinations.

What if family members receive benefits? 

Under the rule, only benefits received by the individual applying for admission or a change of their immigration status are taken into account. Benefits received by other family members, such as citizen children, are not considered a "negative factor."

Which immigrants will NOT be affected by the rule?

  •  The rule does not apply to lawful permanent residents when they apply to become a U.S. citizen.
  • The rule does not apply to lawful permanent residents who are renewing their Green Cards.
  • The rule does not apply to refugees, asylees, immigrants from certain countries, humanitarian parolees, victims of human trafficking, certain victims of criminal activity, special immigrant juveniles, individuals applying for or renewing Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and some other “humanitarian" groups.
  • Although non-citizens who are members of the U.S. armed forces, serving in active duty, or serving in any of the Ready Reserve components are still subject to a modified public charge determination, their use of benefits will not negatively count against them.

Which healthcare benefits will NOT be considered under the rule?

  • Medicaid accessed by immigrants under age 21 and pregnant women;
  • Certain emergency Medicaid benefits;
  • MinnesotaCare;
  • The Children’s Health Insurance Program {CHIP); and
  • Advanced Premium Tax Credits (i.e., subsidies through MNsure) . (Although Advance Premium Tax Credit applications are not directly included ln the finalized rule, they could require a Medicaid screening which may need to be reported or explained by the applicant.)

State and federal laws protect the privacy of people who access public benefits.

Federal and state laws protect the privacy of individuals who apply for or receive public benefits. Information about applicants and beneficiaries can only be used for administering benefits and cannot be shared for the enforcement of immigration laws. County and tribal workers should not share information about an individual’s immigration status or use of benefits. If you receive a request to do so, please contact your supervisor. 

How can I address questions and concerns?

If someone you serve has questions about how this rule could affect immigration status or benefits, they can contact a Legal Aid office at 1-800-292-4150 from 9:00am to 4:00pm or an immigration attorney.

For information regarding non-citizens public charge, click here to be directed to the Minnesota Department of Human Services website with more information. 

For additional resources or information on public charge, check out the MNPrairie "Resources" page with a set of links for "Immigration and/or legal services"

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