Health Services Related to COVID-19 Not Considered in Public-Charge Determinations

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on March 13 that the agency will not consider “testing, treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19” in any public-charge determinations for immigrants applying for a green card. Although the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) newly implemented public-charge rule counts the use of most forms of Medicaid as a strike against an immigrant’s application, this guidance from USCIS states that COVID-19 services provided by or through public benefits will not be considered in a public-charge determination. The Protecting Immigrant Families campaign urges USCIS to make broader announcements to ensure immigrants and their families know their rights during the novel coronavirus crisis.

Noncitizens seeking admission to the U.S. or applying for lawful permanent resident status (green card) have long been subject to a review to determine whether they are, or might become, a “public charge,” defined as someone who might become “primarily dependent on the government.” DHS recently implemented a harmful new rule, which expands the list of “public benefits” that could lead an immigrant to be considered a potential public charge to include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and federal housing assistance, such as public housing, Housing Choice Vouchers, and Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance. Immigration officials will also now consider other factors, such as health, age, income, and English language skills when making public charge determinations (see Memo8/19/19).

The USCIS announcement is at:

Resources about the new public-charge rule is at: