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Social Benefits and Public Charge

On Feb. 24, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security started applying the new Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds final rule.  This means that DHS will now deny any applications for immigrant visas or adjustment of status where the government thinks the new immigrant is at risk to go on public benefits upon entry.

Public benefits that DHS does not want people to use include:

  • Medicaid
  • Section 8 subsidized housing
  • Food Stamps or SNAP benefits
  • Free health insurance
  • Cash assistance
  • Subsidized housing programs

Immigration officers will now consider things like:

  • Immigrant’s age, health, family status
  • Assets, resources, and financial status
  • Education and skills
  • Ability to speak English

in order to determine whether the alien is likely at any time to become a public charge. The rule now applies nationwide, including in Illinois.

Immigration officers will consider the above-listed factors as positive factors, neutral and negative factors when making decisions for immigration cases using the “totality of circumstances” approach.

US Immigration agencies want new immigrants to be completely self-sufficient and NOT to require any help from US taxpayers.

The government will not ask applicants for the following documents when applying for Immigrant Visas and many non-immigrant visas and change of status:

  • Tax returns
  • Paystubs
  • Work history
  • Credit report to determine the visa applicant/adjustment of status applicant’s credit score
  • Evidence of education
  • Licenses and certifications
  • Proof of learning the English language
  • All new visa holders will be required to submit evidence of health insurance covering 1 year from the date of their planned entry into US (tourist or traveler’s insurance is ok) at their visa interview.

Is anyone exempt (not qualified) for the Public Charge Denial Ground?

Certain Case Types will be EXEMPT from the public charge ground of denial and include:

  • Refugees
  • Asylum applicants
  • Asylees
  • VAWA self-petitioners (battered spouses and children of US citizens and green card holders)
  • U Visa applicants – victims of criminal activity
  • T Visa applicants – victims of human trafficking

Are there new immigration forms for the new Public Charge Inadmissibility Ground rules?

  • All visa applicants outside of US must now use a new form DS-5540 Public Charge Questionnaire, which can be found at
  • All adjustment of status (green card) applicants inside US must use I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency, which is found at
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