Public Charge Rule for U.S. Visa Applicants


Comprehensive guide to public charge rule

The public charge rule is an important part of the immigration application which is essential for every application to pass the public charge test to start living in the United States. USCIS rejects those applicants to visit United States who are more likely to get dependent on the US government after immigrating to America. In this guide, you will come to know everything about the public charge rule that every applying candidate should know.

You can also refer to our most awaited immigration visa guide for you through which you immigrate to the United States.

Government administer new Public Charge Rule

At the time of the trump government, a new public charge rule was introduced in February 2020, which the Supreme Court passes that the rule was legal. But later, in July 2020, a federal judge in New York put the rule on break because the effects of COVID-19 later created problems for many immigrants.

After that, the Trump administration appealed against the New York judge ruling. Then on September 22, 2020, the Supreme Court passed the rule saying that the Trump administration can continue enforcing the new public charge rule again. After that, immediately, US Citizenship and Immigration Services start following the rule.

Here is a complete explanation for it:

  • If you are applying for the immigration status application that is needed to pass the public charge test mainly for the permanent resident status (green card) between February 24, 2020, and October 13, 2020, but you missed filling the Form I-944 (if applying from within the U.S.) and Form DS-5540 if applying from any other foreign country, in such a situation government might ask you to submit any of the documents.

So always keep updated with yourself if the government has sent you a request for evidence to submit the missing documents either through the mailing address or to your email that you provided while submitting the application. If you do not submit the required documents within the given time, there are chances that USCIS might reject your application, and your application fees will also be not refunded.

  • If you are filling the immigration status application form which you need to clear the public charge test, you have to submit any of the Form I-944 if you are submitting the form from inside the United States or the Form DS-5540 in case you have submitted the form from outside the United States or from any other foreign country.

In case you filed the application without including any relevant public charge form prior to October 13, 2020, then USCIS will issue you the request for evidence asking you to submit one of the forms. If you apply without the required public charge form after October 13, 2020, the US government will deny your application.

  • If you already filed the application status if you already filed the immigration application status after February 24, 2020, before new standards for Public service rule was introduced, then you will again have to meet the new standards of public charge, which are even stricter as compared to the old one. If you ignore fulfilling the new standard, then the US government will reject your application, and also your application fees will not be refunded.

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What is the Public Charge Rule?

The public charge rule means the admissibility test performs by the federal government to check if an applicant looking to arrive and live in the United States has an intention to depend on the US government. If this happens, then government calls those people in a public charge. If any of the people is likely to become the public charge, the government will reject their visit to the United States. This is commonly known as public charge ground of Inadmissibility.

There are generally two types of public charge rules from the agency handling immigration: the state department and the Department of Homeland Security.

The public charge rule was into effect from 1882, but none of the government agencies enforces these rules. After that, later in the year, August 2019, the trump government states DHS and the state department to make the changes in the rule.

The new public charge rule consists of two things:

  • The public benefits that immigrant has obtained anytime in the past and
  • Immigrants should be stable to support themselves financially.

The categories of the public charge rule are so wide that several legal experts assume that government will probably reject the majority of the new applications. Though several people tried to appeal against the court’s public charge rule, none of them got successful as the government revised the rules number of times.

Moreover, on February 24, 2020, United States Supreme Court announced that the final rule was legal. So now, after the final rule is approved by the US Supreme Court, the US immigrant department is considering these rules to accept the application.

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Who does the Public Charge Rule apply to?

The public choice rule is for all non-US citizens. It affects the immigrant and nonimmigrants who are applying to visit and stay in the United States in several ways.

  • The public charge rule affects the immigrants who are willing to live in the United States permanently.
  • It also applies to those applicants who are applying for non-immigrant status to visit the United States temporarily.
  • The public charge rule is even stricter for the people applying for the immigration status compared to the people applying for non-immigrant status. The rules are different for the people depending upon how they apply for the application to live in the United States.

Always remember, the public charge rule is only for the people who are applying for the new immigration status and for the people who are willing to transfer their permanent resident status to become US citizens. So, for example, if you hold a green card and looking to apply for US citizenship through naturalization, then a public charge will not apply for you, and also, it doesn’t apply for the US citizen.

To apply for US citizenship through naturalization you can check our complete guide for US citizenship.

Does the Public Charge Rule affect people applying for Green Cards?

A green card is one of the immigrant visas that grant you to live in the United States permanently, and a public charge applies to almost all the people applying for permanent resident status (Green card).


The public charge rule does not apply to people who have U Visa or a T visa. Apart from this, it does not apply to the refugee, an asylee in the U.S., or a victim of domestic violence (VAWA).

Does the public charge rule affect those applicants applying for Citizenship?

No, the public charge does not apply for people applying for US citizenship, or maybe it might apply. The reason is that several people are not liable to obtain the public benefit until they become US citizens.

People applying for the green card can only become the public charge in their first five years after obtaining the green card. If any of the immigrants applying for the green card obtained the public benefit before getting the green card, the US government might consider them a public charge.

Does the public charge rule affect those candidates applying for visas?

U.S. State Department takes the simplified public charge test for the applicant applying for a temporary visa. USCIS also takes the general public charge test for those visa holders looking to apply for the extension of the visa or change their immigrant visa status from inside the United States. The visa including an H-1B Visa and several other types of non-immigrant visa status. Those people who are willing to apply for the extension of the visa or looking to change their visa status need to present evidence mentioning that they have not obtained any public benefits continuously for 12 months in the previous three years.

Those applicants staying in the United States as temporary visa holders do not get liable to obtain public benefits. This means that they are free to change or extend their visa status without any fear of getting considered public charges by the government.

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What are the benefits of the Public Charge Rule?

As of now, the US government only determines you as a public charge if you obtain public cash assistance or stayed in the care facility for a long-term for which government pays. The benefits are as follows:

  • Supplemental security income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), commonly known as “welfare.”
  • Cash benefits and state and local cash assistance, commonly known as “General Assistance, “are used for income maintenance.
  • Medicare or several other programs that pay for long term care facility at government expense

The new standard of public charge rule has added several additional benefits to the given list above:

  • Supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP or WIC) commonly known as food stamps or a nutritional program. State and federal school lunch program does not consider for the public charge rule.
  • The new standard that was added in the public benefits including rental assistance, section 8 housing assistance, and many more housing programs like public housing.
  • Non-emergency medical care benefits are also included( except for the children less than 21 years of age, pregnant women, disabled people, and those mothers who give birth to the child is no more than 60 days).

In the new public charge rule, the US government will determine you as a public charge depending on the receipt of public benefits for the last continuous 12 months in the previous three years. No doubt, the new public standard is quite complicated to understand. Let us understand the rule with the help of an example:


  • You received SSI from 5/2/2020 – 11/2/2020 (6 months)
  • You received SSI from 3/1/2021 – 9/1/2021 (6 months)
  • Seeing the public benefit receipt if it is found that you receive the public benefit continually for a total of 12 months within the past three years.

How does the US government determine if the applicant will become a public charge?

The people start using public benefits because they are not stable enough to pay their bills. Below given things are enough for the government to determine if you can support yourself:

Your age

Government chooses to invite those immigrants who are between the age of 18 to 61 years.

Your health

The US government chooses to welcome that immigrants who are physically fit and do not have any critical health conditions which might make it difficult for them to work.

Your skills

US government prefers inviting those immigrants who speak English fluently. Also, the government chooses those immigrants who are equipped with certified professional skills.

Your work and education

The government chooses those immigrants who have been employed for a long period, completed their higher education, or have been primary caregivers for family members in the previous five years.

Your income

The government chooses to invite those immigrants who earn household living in between 125 to 250% of the federal poverty level. Also, they strongly recommend those immigrants who earn more than 250% of the federal poverty level.

If your household income is between 125 to 250% FPL, this income will help you get the application approved. And if you earn more than 250% FPL, then there are larger chances that the US government will approve your application and consider that you are not a public charge.

If your household income is below 125 %( or 100% if you serve in the US armed force), it might make it difficult for the application to get approved.

Your sponsor’s income

When you are applying for the immigration status to visit and stay in the United States, you will require a financial sponsor who can sponsor you in the United States. The sponsors should be either US citizens or green cardholders. Your sponsor will require filing the affidavit of support form I-864, where it will be mentioned that they will prevent you from becoming the public charge. The household income of your sponsor must be at least 125% FPL or more. The higher will be the household income; the better will be chances of your application getting approved.

Your insurance

The US government chooses those immigrants who have already taken insurance or will take the insurance after arriving in the United States. This is especially for those migrants who are suffering from medical conditions. Taking up private insurance, temporary insurance, or temporary insurance will help you in getting the application approved.

Your financial history

The government prefers those people who have a good credit score and who are not in debt.

  • If you do not have a FICO score, then it will not affect your application.
  • If the FICO score is 670 or more, then it will help your application.
  • If your FICO score is somewhere between 580 to 670, then it will not affect your application.
  • If your FICO score is less than 580, then it might affect your application.

If you meet all the factors given in the above list, then the US government will not consider you as the public charge by itself. All the above-given factors are enough for the government to determine that you will support yourself. If there are more positive factors than negative ones in your favor, then the government will approve your application, and if not, they will deny it, considering that you will become a public charge.

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How applicant can present that they are not a public charge?

If the government determines their public charge rule applies for you, you will have to find under what circumstances the government thinks you will become the public charge. If the public charge rule applies to you and you still submit the application, and the government denies it due to public charge grounds, your application fees will also not be refunded. After getting your application denied, you can still apply again.

Complete the required forms.

In order to prove to USCIS or a consular officer that is processing your application that you are not a public charge, you will require to file a new form for the immigration benefits. This form is to check by the government to identify if you are a Public charge or not. The form that you are required to apply depends on where you are applying:

In case you are applying for adjustment of status from within the United States to adjust to the status from visitor Visa to a green card, then you will need to file the form I-944, commonly known as a declaration of self-Sufficiency. This form needs to be filed along with your paperwork.

In case you are applying for the application from outside the United States or through consular possessing, then the US state department asks to file the form DS-5540, Public Charge Questionnaire. This also needs to be submitted along with your paperwork.

Showcase your skills

You can prove to the US government that you are not going to become the public charge by showcasing the skills that you will be working in the United States. There are two primary skills that might help your application the most:

English skills

Those applicants who can speak English fluently can increase their chances of getting work in the United States. This will also lower down the risk of becoming a public charge. You can prove your English proficiency skills by providing the certification of any of the below-given exams:

  • You will require providing the transcript showing that you have completed your English classes.
  • Certificate or diplomas that you have completed the English courses
  • You will have to provide the test result of the tests like the TOEFL or Cambridge assessment. This is one of the ideal options to prove your English skills.

Professional skills

Another way you can showcase your skills by showing the license or certification showing your professional skills, and prove that you are capable enough to work in the industry lowers your risk of becoming a public charge.

Your finances

Finances are one of the primary things that the US government determines to decide if you will become the public charge or not. No doubt you cannot improve your financial status right away, but there are few things through which you can enhance your financial status from the government’s point of view.

There are some of the supporting documents that say a lot about your financial status. The more evidence you provide, the better are the chances that government will consider that you will not become a public charge. Listed below is a checklist of the documents that you can include with your application:

  • Evidence that shows that you own a house and it’s really worth
  • You will have to provide the documents which prove that you own a car and also mention its real worth
  • Proof of several other expensive items that you can easily convert into cash within a year
  • Evidence that shows the value of your bank, retirement, and several other accounts you own
  • Proof and values of any bank, investment, retirement, or other accounts that you own

Enhance your credit score.

If your credit score is low, then there are chances that the government will consider you a public charge. Then you can take the initiative to improve your credit score by taking it more than 580 will lower the risk of public charge. And if your credit score is more than 670, then there are even more chances that you will reduce the risk of considering it as a public charge.

Before you apply for the application, it’s better to clear off your entire debt as the more you will be out of the debt, there will be larger the chances that the government will consider you that you will likely become a public charge.

How COVID-19 pandemic has affected the Public Charge Rule?

After the effect of Coronavirus pandemic, it has negatively impacted the people, business, and health. Due to which many immigrant families and individuals are concerned that they will not be able to pass the public charge test. For them, there is one good news the US government will not include COVID-19 treatment, testing, or COVID-19 vaccine in the public charge test. Acquiring these services will not negatively impact your application.

Also, the public charge rule doesn’t apply to those who are unemployed. If due to the Coronavirus pandemic, you cannot work or attend school, then you can submit the statement of your situation along with the application paperwork. This will also lower the risk of you becoming the public charge just because of employment reasons.

You check our marriage green card guide to get details about required documents for marriage green card

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