The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on February 17, 2022, that it will issue a proposed rule soon that would regulate how DHS applies the public charge ground of inadmissibility. The proposed rule would provide “fair and humane treatment” for noncitizens requesting admission to the United States or applying for lawful permanent residence from within the United States, DHS said. According to reports, the proposed rule is expected to be published on February 24, 2022.
DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said, “Under this proposed rule, we will return to the historical understanding of the term ‘public charge’ and individuals will not be penalized for choosing to access the health benefits and other supplemental government services available to them.”
Under the proposed rule, DHS proposes to define “likely at any time to become a public charge” as “likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.” Consistent with longstanding agency practice, DHS proposes to consider the following public benefits when making a public charge inadmissibility determination:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
- Cash assistance for income maintenance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program;
- State, Tribal, territorial, and local cash assistance for income maintenance; and
- Long-term institutionalization at government expense.
DHS proposes that it will not consider noncash benefits such as food and nutrition assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Children’s Health Insurance Program, most Medicaid benefits (except for long-term institutionalization at government expense), housing benefits, and transportation vouchers. DHS would also not consider disaster assistance received under the Stafford Act; pandemic assistance; benefits received via a tax credit or deduction; or Social Security, government pensions, or other earned benefits.
By law, many categories of noncitizens are exempt from the public charge ground of inadmissibility and would not be subject to the proposed rule, DHS noted. Some exempt categories include refugees, asylees, noncitizens applying for or re-registering for temporary protected status (TPS), special immigration juveniles, T and U nonimmigrants, and self-petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).