The Applicability of “Public Charge” Rules to Legal Immigrants Who Are Eligible For Public Benefits

Publication Date: April 2004

Publisher: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Washington, D.C.)

Author(s): Shawn Fremstad

Research Area: Population and demographics

Keywords: Social inequality; Global migration; International migration; Economic projections

Type: Report


Some legal immigrants fear that if they receive public assistance, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) — formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) — or State Department will decide they are likely to become a “public charge.” A public charge finding may result in denial of permission to adjust to lawful permanent resident status, denial of a visa to enter the United States, denial of re-admission to the United States after a trip abroad for more than six months, or, in very rare circumstances, deportation. Research suggests that public charge concerns, along with other “chilling effects” related to welfare reform and confusion about eligibility rules for benefits, may prevent many legal immigrants from accessing benefits for which they are eligible.