Receipt of Public Benefits Do Not Always Bar Permanent Residency Status

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) recently clarified that a foreign national’s receipt of certain public benefits does not necessarily make that foreign national ineligible to become a lawful permanent resident.

The bar to residency in the U.S. based upon the foreign national being a public charge has been part of U.S. immigration law for more than 100 years. An individual who is likely to become a public charge is inadmissible to the United States and ineligible to become a legal permanent resident. Receiving public benefits, however, does not automatically make an individual a public charge.

Immigration laws have generated some concern about whether a foreign national may face adverse immigration consequences for having received federal, state, or local public benefits. Some foreign nationals and their families are eligible for public benefits – including disaster relief, treatment of communicable diseases, immunization, and children’s nutrition and health care programs – without being found to be a public charge.

Benefits not subject to public charge consideration are those that involve non-cash benefits and that are not intended for income maintenance. Additional benefits include:

Medicaid and other health insurance and health services (including public assistance for immunizations, and for testing and treatment of symptoms of communicable diseases), use of health clinics, short term rehabilitation services, prenatal care, and emergency medical services other than support for long-term institutional care

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

Nutrition programs

Housing benefits

Child care services

Energy assistance programs

Emergency disaster relief

Foster care and adoptive assistance

Educational assistance (such as attending public school)

Job training programs

In-kind, community-based programs, services or assistance

Subsidized child care or transit subsidies

Title II Social Security benefits, government pensions, and veterans’ benefits

Unemployment compensation is also not considered for public charge purposes

While some of the above programs might provide cash benefits, the purpose of such benefits is not for income maintenance, but rather to avoid the need for ongoing cash assistance for income maintenance, and do not adversely impact foreign nationals’ admissibility on the issue of public charge.

Stewart Rabinowitz is President of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. Mr. Rabinowitz is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. To contact a Dallas immigration lawyer or Dallas immigration attorney visit