Housing Assistance under the Final Rule on Public Charge Grounds for Inadmissibility

Parent holding child's hand

An appeal is expected, so be sure to check back periodically on the status of the rules.

The public charge rule isn’t new immigration policy. Under federal law, a person seeking entry to the United States or an adjustment of status is inadmissible if “at the time of application for admission or adjustment of status, is likely at any time to become a public charge.” A person is considered to be a public charge if they receive cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense. 

A recent  new rule expands the list of benefits that can be used against an immigrant in the public charge analysis to include the following programs:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, “EBT” or “Food Stamps”)
  • Federal Public Housing and Section 8 assistance
  • Medicaid (except for emergency services, children under 21 years, pregnant women, and new mothers)
  • Cash assistance programs (like SSI, TANF, General Assistance)

It is important to know that programs not listed above have not been included in the public charge analysis and are safe to enroll in. This includes WIC, CHIP, school lunches, food banks, homeless shelters, transitional housing, state or local housing programs, and many more. The new public charge rule does not apply to all immigrants, to benefits received on behalf of another, or to use of benefits that occurred before the effective date of the final rule, which is Feb. 24, 2020.

Remember that the public charge rule does not impact eligibility for Federal Public Housing or Section 8 housing assistance. However, under the new rule, application or receipt of public benefits, including Public Housing or Section 8, on or after Feb. 24, 2020, may be included in the public charge test. If you are questioning how your receipt of housing benefits could impact your immigration status we recommend talking with an immigration attorney who is knowledgeable about the regulation.

More information


Individuals and families who have 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 Gov. Inslee’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

For more information on applicability of the new rule, visit the Immigrant Legal Resource Center website.

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