What Public Benefits Are Not Considered As Public Charge?

There are folks who have used a public benefit in the past and are worried that this will affect their possibilities of being able to improve their immigration status. First of all, what does USCIS define as a public charge?

USCIS defines public charge as follows:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
    • Federal supplement income to help blind, disabled and elderly people who have little or no income.
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
    •  Provides funds to families where the parent(s) or guardian(s) cannot provide for the family’s basic needs.
  • State and local assistance programs, also known as General Assistance programs
    • Aids individuals who are in need and unable to work due to an incapacity or disability and are not receiving SSI. 
  • Long Term institutionalization in the following: (and covered by Medicaid)
    • Nursing home 
    • Mental health institution

There is a difference between using public benefits and those that would be categorized as a public charge. For instance, the length of the public benefit usage can influence whether or not it is viewed as a public charge. The length of time passed since the usage of the public benefit lessens the weight that the individual could be seen as a public charge. Additionally, the amount of times that the public benefit was used is also seen as a factor to weigh whether or not the individual is seen as a potential public charge.

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