San Franciscans with questions about this proposed rule change and possible immigration consequences should contact a qualified immigration attorney. These consultations are free or low-cost for San Franciscans.
You may also contact the SF Human Services Agency for more information about public benefits for immigrants.
While the proposed rule change will not affect eligibility for federal, state, and local public benefits, whether someone is considered a "public charge" may have serious immigration consequences.
“Public charge” is a term used to describe someone who is dependent on the government. Under current federal regulations, an immigrant could be considered a public charge if that person receives either:
- Public cash assistance, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), called CalWORKS in California, or General Assistance
- Long-term institutional care at the government’s expense, such as a nursing home paid for by Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California)
The federal government is proposing to expand the definition of public charge by adding additional public benefits to this list, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, federal housing assistance such as Section 8 vouchers, non-emergency Medicaid (with limited exceptions), and low-income subsidies for prescription drug costs under Medicare Part D.
Under the proposed public charge rule, the federal government would consider whether the individual who is applying to adjust their immigration status had used public benefits. But the federal government would not consider any public benefits used by family members, if those family members are not also applying to adjust their immigration status.