Current Immigration Rules and Public Benefits (Public Charge)

Updated October 15, 2019

There are many new changes happening with immigration and public benefits.  

We will update this website with any new information that affects immigrants who use public benefits.  

Keep reading to see if the current rules may affect you.

If you have a status listed below, using public benefits will not affect your current or future immigration status:

  • U.S. Citizens

  • Green card holders-unless you travel outside the U.S. for more than 6 months

  • Refugee or asylee

  • Special immigrant juvenile

  • U or T Visa (visas for victims of crimes)

  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) approved self-petition

  • Relief under Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), the Nicaraguan and Central American                                       Relief Act (NACARA) or the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA)

  • Afghan and Iraqi employees of US armed forces

If you have one of these statuses, you can safely use public benefits without hurting your

chance of getting a green card or U.S. citizenship. 

If you plan to petition, sponsor, or co-sponsor a family member to get a green card, using public benefits may affect their application.

 

Do you have an immigration status not listed above?

If you can apply for or change status from inside the U.S.:

Immigration only looks at these benefits:

  • Cash benefits from Wisconsin Works (also called W2 or welfare)

  • Cash benefits from SSI (Supplemental Security Income)

  • Medicaid long-term care program paying for assisted living or a nursing home.

Use of these benefits by family members won't affect your application unless someone in your household gets cash benefits and its the only income for the household.

If you must apply for or change status from outside the U.S. (consular processing):

Right now the U.S. consulates outside the U.S. use stricter rules to decide if you'll become a public charge.  If your family uses public benefits and will need to apply for a green care or visa from outside the U.S., talk to an immigration lawyer to better understand how using benefits may affect your family's immigration status.

Click here for a list of low-cost and free legal services in Wisconsin.

What is public charge?

Public charge is someone who the government believes is likely to become dependent on the government for basic needs.

If someone is considered a public charge by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or U.S. Department of State, this can affect their future eligibility to:

  • Gain a visa to enter the U.S.

  • Gain permanent residency (a “green card”)

  • Change or renew their status

What are public benefits?

Public benefits are government programs for people who have low-incomes. Public benefits help with food, housing, cash assistance or healthcare.

Resources:

 

Local Legal Resource

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Wisconsin Screening Guide

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Wisconsin Safe Program List

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Does Public Charge apply to me?

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Should I enroll my children?

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Healthcare & Public Charge

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Free Legal Services. Call to see if you qualify.

Low-Cost

International Institute of Wisconsin
Free walk-in services available on Fridays from 9a.m. - 11 a.m.
at 1110 North Old World Third Street, Suite 420, Milwaukee, WI
Bring your own interpreter, if needed

Judicare - Call 800-472-1638

Serves 33 northern Wisconsin counties. Wausau, WI. 
Free interpreters.

Rise Law Center - Call 608-256-1015

Free services for victims of abuse and trafficking. Sliding scale fees
available for others. Madison & Janesville, WI. English and Spanish

Community Immigration Law Clinic

Call 608-257-4353

If you need an interpreter, call and leave a message. Free walk-in 
services on the 2nd and 4th Friday of the month from 2p.m. - 5p.m.
at 944 E. Gorham St. Madison, WI

Centro Hispano of Dane County - Call 414-342-3000

Free legal consultations on the 1st and 3rd Friday of each
month. Call for an appointment. English and Spanish.

Sunshine Legal Clinic - Call 608-616-0539

Free legal consultations on the 1st Thursday of each
month from 5-7P.M. 1632 West Main St. Sun Prairie, WI

Civitas Law Group - Call 414-949-5266

Consults $20 
Milwaukee, WI 
English & Spanish

Low-Cost Services:

Catholic Multicultural Center of Madison -

Call 608-441-0114

Consults $0-$50 - Madison, WI
English, Russian, Spanish, Urdu, and Portuguese. Interpreters
available for other languages.

Low-Cost Services:

World Relief of Fox Valley - Call 920-231-3600

Consults $50 - Oshkosh, WI : Appleton, WI
Bring your own interpreter

Low-Cost Services:

Catholic Charities of La Crosse – Call 608-782-0710

Consults $0-$50 - La Crosse, Eau Claire, & Wausau, WI

English and Spanish

Low-Cost Services:

Catholic Charities of Green Bay – Call 920-272-8234

Consults $0-$50 - Green Bay, Appleton, & Manitowoc, WI

English and Spanish

Low-Cost Services:

Centro Hispano Immigration Program – Call 608-255-3018

Madison, WI

English and Spanish

Low-Cost Services:

Who we are:

 

The Wisconsin Collaboration on Immigrants and Public Benefits came together in February 2019 to discuss the troubling, rising level of fear among their immigrant clientele. Our aim is to develop and circulate information to dispel myths, reduce confusion, and promote the safety and value of accessing supportive, means-tested benefits for those who are eligible.

This stakeholder group continues to grow and consists of public immigration lawyers and paralegals from Legal Action Wisconsin and End Domestic Abuse, and professionals from community-based and non-profit organizations such as Wisconsin Primary Healthcare Association, Covering Wisconsin, community health centers, and community agencies who provide direct services to immigrant populations. Each agency and representative comes to the table with a unique perspective of working with immigrant clientele while also sharing a recognition of the multiple barriers this community faces in achieving physical, mental, and financial well-being.

Updated October 15, 2019

Madison Office
1300 Linden Drive
Madison, WI 53706
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2705 E. Washington Ave.
Madison, WI 53704
(608) 261-1455
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728 N. James Lovell St.
Milwaukee, WI 53233
(414) 270-4677
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