When Being a Public Charge Affects your Immigration Status

When Being a Public Charge Affects your Immigration Status

Receiving public benefits may affect your immigration status or ability to travel outside the U.S. If the government determines that you are or could become a “public charge” it reserves the right to deny your application for a green card. A public charge is a person who cannot support themselves and who depends on benefits that provide cash (such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)). In making its determination, the government will also consider your age, health, family status, assets, resources financial status and education and skills.

If you have used public benefits in the past and are now applying for a green card, it is advisable that you demonstrate reasons why you will not become a public charge (i.e. you are now employed, special skill, changed circumstances, etc.). If you become a public charge after obtaining a green card, you may only be removed under very rare and limited circumstances. If you travel outside the U.S. for over 180 days (6 months), the government may review whether or not you are likely to become a public charge.

Important notes:

  • Use of Medicaid, CHIP or other health services by you or your family will not affect your immigration status unless you use Medicaid or other government funds to pay for long-term care (nursing home or other institutionalized care);
  • Use of food stamps, WIC, public housing, or other non-cash programs by you or your family members will not affect your immigration status;
  • Use of cash welfare by your children or other family members will not affect your immigration status, unless these benefits are your family’s only income; and
  • Your own use of cash welfare, like SSI, TANF, or General Assistance, might affect your immigration status if this information is used to determine that you are likely to be a public charge.

Call Feiner & Lavy, P.C. today for a free office consultation if you need help with any sort of immigration matter in New York. We provide services in Spanish, Arabic and Russian.