BREAKING NEWS (March 9, 2021): The Government informed the Supreme Court that it will no longer defend the public charge rule issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the Trump Administration. DHS announced that it would restore the public charge policy from 1999. This is a huge victory! 

Key Points:
1. It is safe for immigrants and their families to use health, nutrition and housing programs they qualify for right away.
2. It’s safe and smart to see the doctor if you need care.
3. USCIS will NOT consider participation in Medi-Cal (except for long-term care), public housing, or CalFresh as part of the public charge determination. 
4. Only some immigrants are subject to public charge. It does NOT apply to refugees; asylees; Temporary Protected Status applicants; Special Immigrant Juveniles; and certain victims of crime, including domestic violence and trafficking. It also does NOT apply to most lawful permanent residents, unless they leave the U.S. for over 180 days and seek to reenter.

For more information, see this Public Charge Update from Protecting Immigrant Families. 

Getting COVID-19 testing, care and vaccination WILL NOT affect your immigration status or future immigration applications and are NOT considered for public charge purposes.

If you think the public charge rule might apply to you, please seek advice from a lawyer before dis-enrolling from public programs. 
Call EBSC at 510-540-5296 or email:

What is the definition of a public charge under the 1999 Field Guidance?

Under the Guidance, a public charge is a person who is or has become (for deportation purposes) or who is likely to become (for admission/adjustment purposes) ‘‘primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either (i) the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or (ii) institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.’’

What public benefits are considered under the 1999 Field Guidance?

The only benefits considered are ‘cash assistance for income maintenance’ and ‘institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.  Short-term and special purpose cash payments and institutionalization for short periods of rehabilitation are not considered.  Food and nutrition programs, including SNAP, and housing programs, such as public housing and section 8 are not considered.  Medicaid is considered only if it is used to pay for long-term care. 

If you think you might be affected by the public charge rule, please speak with a qualified immigration attorney before disenrolling from public benefits.


On August 14, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a rule related to public charge. While some counties immediately filed a lawsuit to block the new rule, the rule was upheld by the courts and took effect on February 24, 2020.

On March 9, 2021, the Trump Administration rule was blocked and public charge reverted to its 1999 form.