What Is a Public Charge in Immigration Law?

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What Is a Public Charge in Immigration Law?

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS), a public charge is a noncitizen that the government believes has, or is likely to become primarily dependent on government assistance. The government aid is usually public cash income, or institutionalization for long-term care.

If classified as a public charge, a noncitizen can become ineligible for citizenship or permanent residency in the United States.

The Traditional Test for Public Charge

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), or State will apply a test to determine whether or not the noncitizen is likely to become a "public charge."

The factors considered are:

Who Is Subject to the Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility?

Persons immigrating through a family visa petition are subject to the test. They are also required to submit an Affidavit of Support Form I-864.

Individuals that may not be subject to the public charge grounds are:

Benefits Subject to the Public Charge Classification

Individuals receiving cash assistance for income maintenance will be subject to a public charge designation. This includes:

Receiving these benefits may not automatically categorize an individual as a public charge. Each determination is made on a case-by-case basis.

Benefits Not Subject to the Public Charge Classification

Benefits that are typically non-cash based are not subject to public charge designations for individuals. These benefits include:

Should I Consult an Attorney for My Public Charge Issues?

Yes. Public charge designations are complex. A determination is decided on a case-by-case basis and receiving help from an immigration attorney would be helpful for your legal matter.

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Last Modified: 10-07-2014 02:57 PM PDT

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