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:
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.
Local Legal Resource
Wisconsin Screening Guide
Wisconsin Safe Program List
Does Public Charge apply to me?
Should I enroll my children?
Healthcare & Public Charge
Free Legal Services. Call to see if you qualify.
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