Public Charge Information

Update March 17, 2020: 

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that the agency will NOT consider “testing, treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19” in a public charge determination “even if such treatment is provided or paid for by one or more public benefits.” 

Changes to immigration rules on public benefit use

The State of Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services has reviewed the rules and wants to provide accurate, reliable information for individuals and families who may be impacted by changing policies. For detailed information about the public charge policy, please refer to the frequently asked questions questions document.

Here is what we know:

  • Programs and services administered by the Department of Social and Health Services will remain in place and are accessible to people who are eligible.
  • DSHS continues to protect the confidentiality of clients’ personal information and does not share this information unless required by state or federal law.
  • Public charge does not apply to all immigrants. Every family is different and people should make the right choice for them and their families, based on their specific situation.
  • The rule does not impact lawful permanent residents applying for U.S. citizenship or naturalization.
  • This new rule does not apply to people who are refugees and asylees, Amerasian immigrants, Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa Holders, Cuban/Haitian Entrants, humanitarian parolees, victims of human trafficking (T- Visa), victims of criminal activity (U-Visa), Special Immigrant Juveniles or VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) self-petitioners.
  • It may impact those applying for lawful permanent residency (“green cards”) or admission to the United States — including diversity visa immigrants and applications to renew, change or extend visas in the United States.
  • Many public benefits are not part of the new rule. Families should feel comfortable continuing to use benefits they are eligible for that are not implicated under the new rule.
    • The new rule will consider cash assistance programs, long-term medical institutionalization and some federal health care, nutrition and housing benefits.
    • The new rule will not consider any other federal benefits. That includes WIC, CHIP, school lunches, food banks, shelters and many more.
    • No changes are being made to non-cash state and local benefits.
  • The rule will apply to applications for adjustments of status, extensions of stay or permanent residency postmarked on or after Feb. 24, 2020.
  • The rule will consider benefits received on or after Feb. 24, 2020. It does not apply retroactively and cannot consider benefits received prior to this date.
  • It does not count the use of benefits by a person’s family members. The use of benefits by children or other household members would not be counted against an individual applying for permanent residency or admission to the United States.

Those with questions or concerns about the impact of using public benefits on their immigration status should contact an immigration attorney. Resources may be available through one of the organizations listed on the Governor’s website. Additionally, you may contact one of the following organizations for help:

  • CLEAR Hotline: 1-888-201-1014
  • Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP):
    • NWIRP Seattle Office: 206-587-4009
    • NWIRP Yakima Valley (Granger) Office: 509-854-2100
    • NWIRP Wenatchee Office: 509-570-0054