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Overview of “public charge” proposed rule

On October 10, 2018, the administration issued a Notice of Proposed Rule-Making (NPRM) or proposed rule that would essentially redefine “public charge.” The proposed rule is not final. Comments on the proposed rule are being accepted through December 10, 2018.

What is a “public charge?”

“Public charge” is a determination made by an immigration official that would impact someone’s ability to enter the United States and, ultimately, receive full legal status. Since it was first defined in the late 1990’s, “public charge” has meant that an individual was considered to be primarily dependent or at risk of becoming primarily dependent on public cash assistance programs, such as TANF or SSI, for subsistence. The current administration has issued a proposed rule that would expand the definition of “public charge” to include a wider range of public benefits.

Who does “public charge” affect?

The “public charge” proposed rule affects individuals seeking admission to the United States or seeking to adjust immigration status to that of an individual lawfully admitted for permanent residence (green card). If an individual is deemed at risk of becoming a “public charge” or is determined a “public charge,” admission to the United States or adjustment of status is not granted. Public charge does not apply in naturalization proceedings.

People who are exempt from being deemed a “public charge” when applying for a green card or other benefits with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):

  1. Refugees
  2. Asylum applicants
  3. Refugees and asylees applying for adjustment to permanent resident status
  4. Amerasian Immigrants (for their initial admission)
  5. Individuals granted relief under the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA)
  6. Individuals granted relief under the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA)
  7. Individuals granted relief under the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA)
  8. Individuals applying for a T Visa
  9. Individuals applying for a U Visa
  10. Individuals who possess a T visa and are trying to become a permanent resident (get a green card)
  11. Individuals who possess a U visa and are trying to become a permanent resident (get a green card)
  12. Applicants for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
  13. Certain applicants under the LIFE Act Provisions

Is Head Start included in the proposed rule?

No, Head Start is not included in the proposed rule as a benefit that would count towards an individual’s “public charge” determination.

What government benefits would be added to a “public charge” determination in the proposed rule?


Under the current policy, the only benefits considered in the “public charge” determination include:

  • Public cash assistance for income maintenance (e.g. Supplemental Security Income (SSI))
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and comparable state or local programs
  • Government-funded long-term institutional care



The proposed rule would expand the types of benefits considered in a “public charge” to also include:

  • Non-Emergency Medicaid (with limited exceptions for disability services offered in schools)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy, which aids in purchasing medication assistance
  • Federal Housing Assistance (e.g. public housing, Section 8 housing vouchers and project-based rental assistance)

Please Note: The DHS has requested input on the inclusion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), but this program was not included in the published proposed regulatory text.


Guidelines for Comments

Is NHSA submitting comments?

Yes, NHSA will be submitting comments that discuss the broad implications of the proposed rule on children and families.

  • In contrast to some other instances where we have asked for sign-ons to our comments, NHSA is encouraging the Head Start community to submit individual comments.
  • NHSA recognizes that “public charge” is a complex issue that affects people in many different ways and we want to allow the Head Start community the opportunity to tell their own unique stories.

Why should you submit comments?

Comments matter for a number of reasons. While Head Start is not named in the “public charge” proposed rule, NHSA recognizes that the changes could nonetheless affect children and families in our community.

  • Comments to a proposed rule raise the profile of the issue to policy makers and the public and show that it is important to many people across different sectors.
  • Comments provide the opportunity to challenge the regulation in court if a concern with the regulation is raised, but not addressed. Comments allow those affected by the rule (and their families, friends, supporters) a chance to voice their concerns to policymakers by sharing personal stories.

Where can you submit comments?

The easiest way to submit comments is through the Federal “public charge” comment portal at

Is NHSA providing any additional materials?

Yes, NHSA is providing comment templates as a starting point for your individual comments. We strongly encourage you to personalize your comments and make them as specific as possible.

How can I personalize my comments?

Discuss how your own immigrant family or those in your community would be impacted by this rule change. If you have personal experience with or are passionate about any of the following programs, please feel free to mention them in your comments: SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), Medicaid, low-income subsidies under Medicare Part D, and Section 8 housing vouchers. Your anecdotes will illustrate how people who access these programs are at risk of being denied green cards, while showing the support and success that these programs provide families.

What should NOT be included in comments?

Because Head Start is not included in the proposed rule, NHSA strongly encourages you to NOT mention Head Start by name in your comments.

Who can comment on the proposed rule?

Anyone can comment. There are no limitations, such as age or citizenship status. It is not like a court of law and you do not need to have “standing” or be directly impacted to comment. We encourage you to ask your friends, family, and co-workers to comment as well.

What information must be provided when submitting a comment?

The only information required to comment is a first and last name. For those not wishing to provide that information, we recommend having someone submit the comment on your behalf, such as a lawyer or a healthcare worker.

Your comment may be as long or short as you would like.


Let us know

While comments submitted are public, it takes some time for the federal government to make them available, so please share a copy of your submitted comments with NHSA by emailing it to Kim Cooper (