Public Charge FAQ

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In Solano County, we know that collaboration among all our community members is necessary to achieve solidarity. When people don't feel safe to go to the doctor or get public benefits, we aren't able to thrive individually or collectively. We want everyone who lives here to maintain their health and take care of each other by continuing to seek the care and support their needs. Solano County Health & Social Services Department will always be here for our community and remains committed to providing excellent services with respect and dignity for all.

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This page was last updated on September 16, 2019.

What is Public Charge?

The "public charge assessment" is used by immigration officials to decide whether a person can enter the US or get a green card. This is used to determine whether an immigrant will be dependent on the government. Receiving government benefits is just one of a variety of factors used for immigration decisions.

Currently, a person could be deemed a public charge if they are likely to become primarily dependent on the government for support. Primary dependence refers to the reliance on cash assistance programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and CalWORKs, or long-term care at the government’s expense.

Public Charge Rule Change Effective October 15, 2019

This new ruling broadens the definition to include the use of the following non-cash public benefit programs:

  • Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (CalFresh)
  • Most forms of Medi-Cal (except for emergency services and Medi-Cal for children under 21 years old, pregnant women and new mothers)
  • Public housing and Section 8 assistance

The revision also defines a public charge as an immigrant who receives one or more of these public benefits for more than 12 months within any 36-month period (e.g. two benefits used in one month counts towards two months). The rule more closely scrutinizes other factors like health, age, income, and skills (including English language skills). Immigration officials must look at the person’s whole situation before deciding if they are likely to become public charge.

Certain groups are exempt from the public charge determination:

  • Refugees, Asylees, T visa holders, U visa holders, VAWA recipients and self-petitioners, Temporary Protected Status recipients, and Special Immigrant Juveniles;
  • Green card holders
  • Immigrants without legal status

The rule change has been published in the Federal Register at and will become effective on October 15th, 2019.

What You Need to Know:

  • The rule change will take effect on October 15, 2019 and is not retroactive.
  • The rule does not apply to green card holders and those applying to become a US citizen.
  • The rule does not include WIC, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), subsidized school lunches, food banks, shelters, and other programs.
  • The rule does not change the eligibility of you or your family for public benefit programs.
  • Use of public benefits by U.S. citizen children and other family members will not count against you.
  • Every situation is different. Please consult an immigration legal services agency or attorney if you have questions about your case.