Public Charge

Updated 8/26/20

UPDATE (08/12/2020): The public charge rule is IN EFFECT in Illinois. For more information please visit the Protecting Immigrant Families - IL Impact page.

COVID-19 and Public Charge

On March 13, 2020 USCIS announced  that it will not consider testing, treatment, nor preventative care of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the public charge test, even if provided through one of the newly listed benefits (Federal Medicaid). Please take care of yourself and seek medical attention if necessary.

For a list of where to get tested in Chicago CLICK HERE!  

For a list of where to get tested in all Illinois CLICK HERE!

On February 24, 2020, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the US Department of State (DOS) implemented new rules regarding “public charge.” Under immigration law, DHS can deny someone a visa or green card if it believes that person is likely to become a “public charge,” that is, likely to rely on government support for that person’s livelihood.

Who does public charge apply to?

Public charge applies to many individuals seeking admission to the US (from outside the US or already in the US applying for a green card) or anyone with a nonimmigrant visa seeking an extension or change.  Public charge does NOT apply to refugees, asylees, and many other individuals who are applying for humanitarian relief or who have received such relief and are applying for green cards.




















Under the rule, someone would be considered a public charge if that person receives any amount of these benefits or are enrolled in these programs for 12 months out of any 36-month period (counting use of two benefits in a given month as two months). The rule will not count benefits received prior to February 24, 2020.  The rule change applies to only those whose applications for admission (including applying for a green card) are postmarked on or after February 24, 2020. Note that undocumented immigrants and temporary visa holders are already ineligible for most public benefit programs.

Does the rule apply if a non-citizen is using benefits such as Charity Care or the Cook County Direct Access program?

No! Only the benefits listed above would apply. Other programs should not be considered. 

Does this rule apply if US citizen children use benefits?

No! The rule covers ONLY the applicants themselves; other eligible members of the household (e.g. US citizen children) could receive benefits without disqualifying the applicant.  However, a noncitizen child could be subject to public charge for any benefits the child uses.

Should families currently receiving benefits leave those programs?

You should consult with a community organization,  an immigration attorney or a  DOJ Accredited person. Many families receiving public benefits may not be affected for using those services. 

Click HERE for a list of community organizations 

Click HERE for a list of Illinois non-profit organizations that offer immigration legal help

Would this rule affect people who do not currently receive any of these benefits?

The rule sets standards for determining if someone is "likely to become a public charge," meaning they are likely to use the listed benefits sometime in the future.  The rule says that to make this determination, DHS MUST consider

  • age, particularly for minors and older individuals

  • medical conditions, including any conditions that require long-term care

  • family status, including household size, counting a wide range of relatives

  • household assets, resources, and financial status, including income, credit history, and past or present use of the listed public benefits

  • education and skills, including English proficiency

  • whether the immigrant’s sponsor has filed an affidavit of support showing that the sponsor has enough income and assets to adequately support the immigrant financially.

What would happen if someone is found likely to become a public charge?

A green card applicant who is found likely to become a public charge can still ask to post a bond with DHS of at least $8,100.  If the applicant is admitted and later becomes a public charge, the applicant would lose the entire amount of the bond to DHS. 


For more information, please email us at

If you wish to talk to someone live about public charge, apply for public benefits or ask questions, please call the IFRP HOTLINE 1-855-437-7669

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Other Important Information

Previous Updates

On August 14, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a final version of a new rule regarding “public charge.”  Under immigration law, DHS can deny someone a visa if it believes that person is likely to become a “public charge,” that is, likely to rely on government support for that person’s livelihood.


With the support of the Illinois Department of Human Services, we have a network of over 40 organizations throughout the state of Illinois available to answer your questions about Public Charge and public benefits. The following map lists all the organizations who are Immigrant Family Resource Program Partners and/or Welcoming Centers. For a list of those organizations please click HERE.

In The News 

ICIRR Partner organizations participated in a Public Charge town hall hosted by Univision Chicago. You can watch the whole video (in Spanish) below.

ICIRR is dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society.
©2020 Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
228 S. Wabash, Suite 800
Chicago, Illinois 60604
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