Public Charge Rule and the CARES Act Guide for Immigrants

Terra Immigration Partners compiled a Public Charge Rule and the CARES Act Guide For Immigrants.  Here, you will find the most important information regarding the new Public Charge Rule and the CARES Act related to the current Corona virus health crisis.  This blog is for informational purposes only.  The information contained in this blog is current as of April 11, 2020.  If you need to speak to an immigration attorney, please email or call (407) 818-1244.



  • The new Public Charge Rule went into effect on February 24, 2020.
  • The rule applies to green card applicants and applications to extend or change non-immigrant status.
  • “Public charge” is an “alien who receives one or more public benefits for more than 12 months, in total, within any 36-month period.”
  • The new rule looks at factors to decide if you are more likely than not at any time in the future to become a public charge.
  • The factors are: 1) Age; 2) Health; 3) Family status; 3) Assets, resources, and financial status; 4) Education and skills; 5) Prospective immigration status; 6) Expected period of admission; and  7) Sufficient Affidavit of Support when required.

Public Charge Rule Frequently Asked Questions

What Benefits under the Public Charge Rule are considered by USCIS?

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families;
  • Any federal, state, local, or tribal cash benefit programs for income maintenance;
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps);
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program;
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation);
  • Public Housing; and;
  • Federally funded Medicaid (with certain exclusions).

What benefits will NOT be considered by USCIS?

  • Emergency medical assistance;
  • Disaster relief;
  • National school lunch programs;
  • The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children;
  • The Children’s Health Insurance Program;
  • Subsidies for foster care and adoption;
  • Government-subsidized student and mortgage loans;
  • Benefits received by children born to, or adopted by, U.S. citizens living outside the United States.
  • Energy assistance;
  • Food pantries and homeless shelters; and
  • Benefits received by U.S. service members.
  • Head Start.
  • Benefits received by the spouse and children of U.S. service members.
  • Certain Medicaid benefits for:
    • For the treatment of an “emergency medical condition;”
    • As services or benefits provided in connection with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act;
    • As school-based services or benefits provided to individuals who are at or below the oldest age eligible for secondary education as determined under state or local law;
    • By aliens under the age of 21; and
    • By pregnant women and by women within the 60-day period beginning on the last day of the pregnancy.

Who is exempt from the Public Charge rule?

  • U.S. citizens, even if the U.S. citizen is related to a non-citizen who is subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility; or
  • Refugees;
  • Asylees;
  • Afghans and Iraqis with special immigrant visas;
  • Certain  non-immigrant trafficking and crime victims;
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) applicants;
  • Special immigrant juveniles; and
  • Those to whom DHS has granted a waiver of public charge inadmissibility.


  • President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) on Friday, March 27th, 2020.
  • The $2 trillion stimulus package provides aid to eligible individuals, small businesses, and healthcare programs.
  • Eligible individuals will receive a stimulus payment of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples and $500 for each qualifying child.
  • Those Eligible individuals who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 and chose direct deposit for their refund will receive the stimulus payment automatically.
  • Eligible individuals who did not file taxes for 2019 or 2018 will receive stimulus checks “in the near future.”

CARES Act Frequently Asked Questions

What categories of immigrants can receive the $1,200 relief from the government?

ONLY green card holders or resident aliens with social security numbers.

This includes people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). But many of these people will still be disqualified from receiving cash payments if their spouse or child who does not have a valid Social Security number.

Do I need a social security number?


You must have a SSN AND eligible immigration status.

Can I get the $1,200 stimulus if I file my taxes with an ITIN?


An ITIN is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service to ensure that people – including unauthorized immigrants – pay taxes even if they do not have a Social Security number, regardless of their immigration status.  To get the $1,200, you must have a SSN.

Do I qualify for the $1,200 stimulus if I have a social security number but my husband has an ITIN?


Just because you have a Social Security number doesn’t mean you automatically qualify.  If your spouse or child doesn’t have a Social Security number, no one in your family will be able to get the stimulus.  The only exception would be if one spouse has a Social Security number and at least one spouse served in the military in the last 2019 tax year.

Do immigrants qualify for Medicaid under the CARES Act?


Medicaid is a federally funded state-run program that offers health coverage to millions of low-income Americans.  The enrollment requirements are complex and very few immigrants qualify.  Unfortunately, the CARES Act failed to expand Medicaid eligibility criteria.  This will disqualify millions of immigrants— including green card holders, DACA and TPS holders —from needed care.  Immigrants across the United States will, however, be able to use their local community health centers for some treatment options.

Can I get the $1,200 benefit if I am in the process of applying for my green card and I have a SSN?

Only those who have a green card or are resident aliens with a Social Security Number are currently eligible will get the benefit.

Will testing, treatment or preventative care for Corona virus affect my immigration case?


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website says that “USCIS will neither consider testing, treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to the Corona virus as part of a public charge inadmissibility determination.”  This is true even if someone pays for the treatment through a benefit like Medicaid.

The rule itself also exempts the use of Medicaid benefits for treatment of an “emergency medical condition.” Immigrants should not worry about using emergency Medicaid if they become sick with the virus and need treatment.

Do people with green cards need to worry about using government services due to the Corona virus?


The current public charge rule applies to people already in the United States who are applying for a green card and people in another country seeking a visa to come to the U.S.  The new rule also requires those seeking to extend or change their non-immigrant status to submit information on public benefits use.  USCIS does not apply the full public charge test to those individuals.

Therefore, people with green cards do not need to worry about triggering the  the public charge rule during the Corona virus crisis.

Does filing for unemployment put my immigration application at risk?


Unemployment benefits is not considered to be a “public benefit.”  Instead, unemployment is an “earned benefit” that workers pay into with their paychecks. This includes Medicare and Social Security.

Not every immigrant laid off due to the Corona virus crisis will be eligible for unemployment.  Those seeking to file for unemployment generally must be legally authorized to work.  Some states give unemployment benefits to with DACA holders, while others do not.

Can a period of unemployment due to the Corona virus affect my immigration case?


The public charge rule is like a wealth test. Immigrants who are laid off due to the corona virus could have their lack of income counted against them when applying for a green card in the future or have to use public benefits to survive.

However, these individuals should provide additional evidence explaining that the hardship was due to the Corona virus crisis.

USCIS says it will “take all such evidence into consideration in the totality of the [immigrant’s] circumstances,” indicating that they will likely be more lenient.

How has the Corona virus impacted Immigration?

USCIS offices are currently closed to the public.

If you had an appointment at your local office and your appointment was canceled, you you will get a letter in the mail once USCIS reopens to reschedule your appointment.

Has the Corona Virus crisis impacted Immigration Enforcement?

Many health experts are asking the government to make hospitals and other healthcare facilities “immigration enforcement-free zones.” These zones allow undocumented immigrant, to seek out medical services without fear of an arrest.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sets up certain enforcement-free zones during times of crisis.  Immigration agents will not carry out enforcement initiatives such as arrests, searches, or interviews in these designated areas.

A government official has assured that “individuals seeking medical treatment for the virus should continue to do so without fear or hesitation.”  However, neither President Trump nor DHS has officially made healthcare facilities enforcement-free zones. This is especially problematic because U.S. Customs and Border Protection are notorious for conducting enforcement at hospitals.

Can I still apply for immigration benefits?


You should expect much slower processing times.  If you need to apply for an immigration benefit, now is the time to do it.

If you need to speak to an immigration attorney, please email or call (407) 818-1244.

Leave a comment

Terra Immigration Partners - Immigration lawyers in Orlando, Florida
Terra Immigration Partners - Immigration Lawyers In Orlando, Florida


Get latest updates and offers.

Copyright © 2021 Terra Immigration Partners Privacy Policy