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Public Charge

Public Charge


**Update September 8, 2022 — Access protected: Final Rule on Public Charge updated

You and your loved ones can seek and accept medical care, food assistance, public housing, and other non-cash benefits without fear about “public charge” consequences. 

Public Charge regulation has been updated. The federal government has announced it as the “final rule.” It ensures that use of federal health care benefits like Medicaid or non-cash benefits like food stamps will NOT be used to deny any immigrant the ability to get a green card or entry to the United States. 

It is both safe and the right thing to do to see the doctor if you or your loved ones need care.

About public charge

“Public charge” is a test used by immigration officials to determine if an individual is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for support in the future.

An individual can be denied a visa or lawful permanent residency (a “green card”) if they do not “pass” the public charge test.

Under the final guidelines as of September 2022, DHS may only consider direct cash assistance programs, such as Supplemental Security Income and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and long-term institutionalization paid for by Medicaid or another government source.

This will not automatically exclude an individual but will instead be considered in a broader analysis of many different factors.

  • Benefits received by an immigrant's family members will not be considered under the new rule.
  • Many groups of immigrants, including refugees, asylum seekers, and many humanitarian visa holders, are exempt from this policy.
  • A person’s disability benefits
  • Non-cash benefits
  • Medicaid health care benefits
  • Community health center sliding fee scale discounts
  • Short-term institutional care, like rehab, or home and community-based services, even if paid for by Medicaid or other government funding sources
  • Food and nutrition programs, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits
  • Earned benefits, including Social Security
  • Housing programs, including Section 8
  • Disaster relief, including COVID-19 pandemic programs and benefits
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program
  • Utility assistance (for example Seattle City Light bill assistance program)
Xavier Becerra | United States Secretary of Health and Human Services

People who qualify for Medicaid, CHIP, and other health programs should receive the care they need without fear of jeopardizing their immigration status. As we have experienced with COVID, it’s in the interest of all Americans when we utilize the health care and other services at our disposal to improve public health for everyone.

Xavier Becerra | United States Secretary of Health and Human Services

For more information

  • Click here for Washington State Department of Social and Health Services Public Charge information
  • Eastside Legal Assistance Program (Eastside residents only): 425-747-7274 (English) 425-620-2778 (Español)
  • Click here for Seattle-King County Immigrant Legal Defense Network
  • Northwest Immigrant Rights Project: 206-816-3870
  • West African Community Council: 206-636-9882
  • Entre Hermanos (focus on LGBTQ individuals): 206-322-7700
  • Northwest Justice Project CLEAR Hotline: 1-888-201-1014

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