Proposed Change to Public Charge Rule

On September 22, the Department of Homeland Security has issued a new proposal to change the definition of ‘public charge’. In broad terms, ‘public charge’ means an individual may become dependent on government assistance, such as income maintenance. Aliens seeking permanent residency may be inadmissible on the grounds of public charge.  The Department of Homeland Security’s proposal aims to broaden the legal definition of public charge determinations.

Based on the unofficial proposed rule, individuals may be considered under the new public charge definition if they receive public benefits including supplemental security income, income maintenance, Medicare and some Medicaid, public or Section 8 housing, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or institutionalization. It’s important to note that the proposed definition change to public charge does have some exceptions to certain categories of vulnerable aliens, including refugees, members of the U.S. armed forces, and asylees.  

The Department of Homeland Security indicates in this proposal that several factors will be heavily weighted when considering whether an alien may become a public charge, including education, whether the alien has received or receives public benefits, age, and ability of the alien to obtain health insurance.

In addition to modifying the definition of public charge, the proposed policy also seeks to increase the costs of I-485, I-129, I-129CW, and I-539 applications. The proposed new rule would also add additional costs to filing applications related to the public charge bond process, including Form I-945 and Form I-356.

Another aspect that is important to consider is that the final rule, if approved, is subject to a mandatory comment period before it can be finalized. This could take anywhere between several months to over a year to complete. A copy of the unofficial DHS proposal can be found here.