Trump Administration Releases Final Public Charge Rule
August 12, 2019

New regulation would exclude federal student financial aid in the effort to judge whether a foreigner is likely to use public benefits

​The Trump administration has finalized its plan to overhaul how the government evaluates whether an individual from another country, either already in the United States or seeking to come here, is “not likely to be a public charge”—that is, not likely to use public benefits such as food stamps or Medicaid, a requirement of many visa categories and green card applications. The new regulation will go into effect in 60 days.

The rule requires an extended investigation into a person’s history and job prospects and gives wide-ranging discretion to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to reject an application for admission or for an extension or change of status, as well as reject applications from non-immigrants, those not seeking permanent resident status, such as international students seeking student visas.

At issue is how the government looks at public benefits a non-immigrant has already used or is likely to use. While only cash benefits are considered right now, the new approach will include Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps), Section 8, and other housing benefits.

Title IV federal student financial aid is excluded, as ACE and 31 other higher education associations requested in comments on the proposed rule submitted in December. The groups were concerned that including financial aid as a benefit would have a chilling effect on first-generation U.S. students seeking a postsecondary education.

As the preamble to the rule states, “The focus of the rule is public benefits programs that provide cash assistance for income maintenance or support food nutrition, housing and healthcare with a relatively high overall expenditure. Pell grants and student aid programs are education-based and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) is not considering them in the public charge inadmissibility determination. DHS decided to not include a list of those benefits that are not considered for public charge purposes because they are too numerous and benefits programs may change over time.”

The groups also asked for F-1 and J-1 student and exchange visitors to be excluded in the final rule, believing their inclusion would create further delays in visa processing and discourage international students and scholars from coming to the United States.

The final rule does not apply to initial international student visa applications. However, it does require these individuals to demonstrate they have not made extensive use of public benefits if they wish to extend or change their visa status after they arrive. 

Related Content

Trump Policy Favors Wealthier Immigrants for Green Cards
The New York Times (sub. req.) | Aug. 12, 2019

Letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Public Charge Rule (PDF)
From ACE and 31 other higher education associations