Current Immigration Rules and Public Benefits (Public Charge)

We are still waiting on the federal government to finalize changes to the public charge rule, which may affect current and future immigrants who use public benefits.


Use the interactive tool below to see if you should talk to a lawyer before applying for public benefits.

Do you have a status listed below?

• 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


Do I need to talk to a lawyer?

I or someone in my family will have to use a U.S. consulate outside the U.S. (consular processing) to: 
    • Apply for a green card
    • Sponsor or co-sponsor an immigrant to get their green card
    • Apply for entry to the U.S.  

I don’t have a green card but get one or more of these:
    • Medicaid Long-Term Care program, which pays for 
       assisted living or a nursing home
    • Cash benefits from W2 (welfare) or SSI
    • Someone in my household gets W2 or SSI cash benefits, 
       and it’s the only income for the household

I have a green card and I plan to travel outside the U.S. for 
more than 6 months


What is public charge?

Public charge is someone who is likely to become dependent on the government for basic needs, specifically if they are receiving certain public benefits.


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

• Gain a visa to enter the U.S.

• Gain permanent residency (a “green card”)



Screening Tool and Legal Resource PDF

Click on the link to download or print a screening tool to determine if an immigrant needs to talk to a lawyer before getting public benefits.

Spanish and Hmong translations coming soon!


Free Legal Services. Call to see if you qualify.

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


Low-Cost Services:

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:

Immigration and Public Benefits Webinar


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 May 30th, 2019

Madison Health
Insurance Help
(608) 261-1455
Milwaukee Health 
Insurance Help
(414) 270-4677
(608) 262-2618
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We are a federally certified and state licensed navigator entity.

Covering Wisconsin does not discriminate on the basis of age, race/ethnicity, religion, physical appearance, gender, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, national origin, cultural differences, arrest or conviction record, military participation, or political beliefs.