The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

Public Charge Update for Anti-Hunger and Health Care Advocates

Update on Proposed Public Charge Rule –It’s Coming

I’m sure those of you working with immigrants have all heard by now that on Saturday Sept. 22, 2018 the Dept. of Homeland Security  (DHS) issued a press release about its proposed public charge rule & posted an unofficial copy of the proposed rule on its website. The 60-day comment period will begin only after the proposed rule is published in the federal register which DHS said on Sept. 22 would be in “coming weeks.” As of this morning, the proposed rule has not yet been officially published and the comment period has not yet begun.

What next for health care providers & anti-hunger advocates?

  • Make sure clients and patients do not drop benefits they need based on misinformation about this soon to be proposed rule.



  • It will be at least 4 months before we even know what the final rule is and when it takes effect, and probably much longer. 
    • The public response matters. The proposed rule does not include some of the more extreme proposals in earlier drafts which generated broad opposition after they were leaked to the press. The final rule may differ from the proposed rule.
    • The process of getting from a proposal to a final rule takes time. First, there will be a 60 day comment period followed by time for DHS to review comments and prepare a final rule including its response to comments. The review process could be lengthy depending on the quantity and quality of comments submitted. Once a final rule is published, it will not take effect until at least 60 days after publication, but the effective date could be even further out.
    • The proposal says DHS will NOT count receipt of benefits--other than those that count now—that were received before the effective date of the final rule. Now the public charge test only considers the receipt of cash welfare for income maintenance (e.g. SSI, TAFDC & EAEDC) and long term institutional care at government expense. The proposed rule says it will look at evidence of receipt of public benefits as newly defined only for benefits received on or after 60 days from publication of the final rule.
    • Many immigrants now receiving public benefits will never be subject to a public charge test.  Some kinds of immigration relief do not involve a public charge test. Some immigrants have paths to a green card that are not subject to a public charge test. Some immigrants have no likely path to a green card. Most green card holders are not subject to public charge but there are a few limited exceptions. The proposal makes it harder to get a green card, and only green card holders can apply for US citizenship, but there is no public charge test for green card holders to become US citizens. Explaining this can get complicated. Right now the clearest message is that USCIS is still applying the current guidelines, and there is time to stop the proposal from becoming final.


  • When the proposal is published, file comments within the 60 day comment period!
    • Find out more about what’s in the proposed rule from the resources assembled and developed by the Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF) Campaign:



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