DHS Formally Rescinds Trump Era “Public Charge” Rule

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently issued its final rule to rescind a Trump-era immigration policy that sought to limit immigration benefits for those likely to rely on government aid such as housing vouchers, food assistance, Medicaid, or other public benefit. According to a DHS statement, “The rule restores the historical understanding of a ‘public charge’ that had been in place for decades, until the prior Administration began to consider supplemental public health benefits such as Medicaid and nutritional assistance as part of the public charge inadmissibility determination.”

One level deeper: Section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) renders a noncitizen inadmissible if they are “likely at any time to become a public charge.” In other words, a noncitizen who is deemed likely to become a “public charge,” meaning that they are likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, can be denied admission or lawful permanent residence (known colloquially as a green card). Prior to 2019, almost all non-cash government benefits such as Medicaid and housing benefits were excluded from the public charge consideration.

Bottom line: The final rule, which will take effect on Dec. 23, 2022, does not consider housing assistance such as assistance through public housing, Housing Choice Vouchers, and Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) in the public charge test.

And an individual participating in other “non-cash” programs (such as SNAP, WIC, and the Child Tax Credit) in addition to receiving housing assistance will not be penalized if they seek to change their immigrant status or apply for permanent residency.