Public Charge FAQ

We promote healthy, safe and stable lives, for all in Solano

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 August 13, 2019.

What is Public Charge?

Public Charge is an immigration law that allows federal authorities to deny legal status to individuals dependent on the government for certain types of benefits. Receiving government benefits is just one of a variety of factors used for immigration decisions. For decades, this test considered only whether an immigrant would require cash benefits (TANF or SSI), CalWORKs or long-term care, paid by the government.

What is happening to the Public Charge rule?

The Administration proposed changes that would expand the Public Charge rule to include other benefit programs, such as Medi-Cal, Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy, Cal-Fresh (Food Stamps), Public Housing and Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher and Rental Assistance. WIC is NOT listed in the proposed rule.

Has the Public Charge rule changed?

As of August 12, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it will publish its Final Rule on Public Charge on the Federal Register on Wednesday, August 14, 2019. DHS has revised the definition of “public charge” to consider more kinds of public benefits received. The rule defines the term “public benefit” to include any cash benefits for income maintenance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), most forms of Medi-Cal, and certain housing programs.

Solano County H&SS will provide more detailed information as it becomes available.

Please Note: Eligibility for any of these public benefits programs has not changed. Solano County H&SS will provide more detailed information as it becomes available.

I have heard there may be changes to how my application for citizenship will be considered if I or my family uses any public assistance programs. Is this true?

No. Immigration officials cannot consider whether you or your family receive a public benefit when deciding if you can become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Does the use of public benefits and supportive services affect my application for lawful permanent residency?

The federal government has not made any changes to how the use of public benefits affects your application for lawful permanent residency – also known as a “green card” – when you apply from within the United States. (Please note that different rules apply when you apply for a green card from a foreign consulate.)

For green card applications filed in the U.S., the use of non-cash benefits like health care coverage (Medi-Cal), food (CalFresh), education, job training and child care services has no impact, and will not count against anyone applying for lawful permanent residency. Under the current rules, use of Medi-Cal long-term care services and cash assistance programs, including CalWORKs may be considered by immigration officials when applying for lawful permanent residency.

On October 10, 2018 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published proposed changes to the public charge rules in the Federal Register. The proposed rule changes expand the types of benefits that may be considered for “public charge” to include non-cash benefits including health coverage, food, and housing assistance. Currently these are proposed changes, and the rules have not changed.

I am concerned about the privacy of my information. How does Health & Social Services use the information I provide about me or my family members?

H& SS uses the information you give us to see if you are eligible for benefits. The federal government does not access our systems for immigration enforcement action. We may need to verify the information you provide about your household on a public benefits application with the federal government, but only to confirm your eligibility to receive services. We do not share information about household members who are not applying for benefits.

Will participating in public benefit programs impact my immigration status or citizenship?

While we are not able to offer legal guidance specific to you and your family, we do encourage you to seek advice from a reputable nonprofit immigration service provider or attorney. Click here for a list of organizations that may be able to help you.

What action can I take about the proposed Public Charge rule change?

Make your voice heard -- submit a public comment before the law gets finalized! The public comment period is October 10 - December 10, 2018. To submit a public comment, click here. Your name is the only information required to submit a comment.

Additional Information about the Proposed Rule
  • The changes are not immediately effective. The proposed regulation would not become legally effective until 60 days after a final rule is issued.
  • A final rule cannot be issued until after a 60-day comment period (the deadline for the comment period is December 10, 2018). Therefore, we are not expecting this rule to be finalized until 2019.
  • The rule does not target benefit use by family members. Prior drafts would have punished an immigrant if their dependents – including US citizen children – accessed a public benefit. That provision has been removed from the September 2018 draft.
  • The rule does not apply to all immigrants. The public charge rule does not apply to certain groups of immigrants, namely: those applying for citizenship in a naturalization proceeding; undocumented individuals; and certain groups of humanitarian immigrants (refugees, asylum-seekers, Violence Against Women Act self-petitioners, Temporary Protected Status, etc.).
  • The rule is not retroactive. Immigration officials will not consider use of benefits that predates the rule’s applicable date. Therefore, those who are accessing affected programs now are not likely to be penalized in a public charge determination for their current use.

Important Reminder for Staff

Staff should NOT be offering advice to individual applicants or continuing participants who inquire about the immigration consequences of participation in public benefits programs. Immigration advice may only be provided by authorized experts. There are many factors which determine whether a person may be considered a public charge. Everyone's case is unique and requires review by a qualified legal professional.


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