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LAW Home > Legal Topics > Immigration > Right to Public Benefits

Important Information About Public Benefits for Immigrant Families

In 2019, the Trump administration issued a new regulation that made it harder for some families with immigrant members to receive government benefits like SNAP and Medicaid, without potentially affecting the immigration  options and eligibility of those family members. The new rule was postponed because of court challenges, but many families did not apply for benefits like SNAP and Medicaid, out of fear of the rule change.

Because of recent actions in court cases, and action by the federal government, the 2019 “public charge” rule change has been permanently withdrawn and will not apply to any immigration application.

The 1999 federal rules regarding public charge considerations will still apply. Under the 1999 guidance, the Department of Homeland Security will not consider a person’s receipt of Medicaid (except Medicaid for long-term institutionalization), public housing, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits as part of the public charge inadmissibility determination. In addition, medical treatment or preventive services for COVID-19, including vaccines, will not be considered for public charge purposes.

For most households with immigrant members, the use of public benefits will not affect those members’ immigration status or ability to adjust immigration status. 

If you are concerned about how the public charge rule affects your immigration status or potential immigration applications, consult with an attorney before applying for immigration status or withdrawing from any public assistance program. For legal advice, you can call the LSNJLAWSM, Legal Services of New Jersey’s toll-free hotline at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529).​​