August 2019 Public Charge Rule no longer in effect

March 11, 2021

As a result of ongoing litigation around the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)'s August 14, 2019 final rule on public charge grounds of inadmissibility, DHS announced on March 9, 2021 through a press release that "the government will no longer defend the 2019 public charge rule as doing so is neither in the public interest nor an efficient use of limited government resources." It goes on to state that, “As a result, the 1999 interim field guidance on the public charge inadmissibility provision (i.e., the policy that was in place before the 2019 public charge rule) is now in effect." 

What is public charge? What changed?

“Public charge” is an evaluation of whether a foreign national is likely to need financial support from the United States federal or state government while they are in the U.S. The prior (now vacated) 2019 public charge rule created strong penalties for use of certain public benefits, which included federal food, medical and housing assistance programs, and created a clearly defined and highly restrictive definition of public charge. 

The interim 1999 guidance, which is now back in effect, establishes that applicants for a visa, admission, or adjustment of status are inadmissible to the U.S. if they are likely at any time to become a public charge based on factors of age, health, family and financial status, education and skills. The prior statute does not define "public charge" or provide specific details on the factors considered, and does not include penalties for use of public benefits.  

Most nonimmigrants are not eligible for federal public benefits. If you do choose to utilize public benefits for which you are eligible, we continue to encourage you to seek out resources or legal assistance that will assist you in making an informed choice, as public charge rules could shift again in the future.