September 8, 2022

This morning, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published its final Public Charge rule. The final rule will be published in the Federal Register for public inspection tomorrow, September 9th  and will go into effect December 23rd. Although the rule does not reflect all of the recommendations that we urged to support survivors during the rulemaking process, we commend DHS for moving forward with provisions that make life-saving support accessible to immigrant survivors of violence. API-GBV will continue to work with our partner organizations, DHS, and the administration to strengthen these supports and contribute to an immigration system that protects, rather than discriminates against, immigrants who are experiencing gender-based violence.

The rule primarily adopts the 1999 Interim Field Guidance. Some of these are briefly described below: 

  • Accessing cash assistance for income maintenance and institutionalization (including state funded benefits) will be considered in looking at the totality of circumstances in a public charge determination. This means receipt of cash benefit programs like TANF, SSI, and state General Assistance programs that look at income to determine eligibility will be considered as part of the test. Other cash programs, like short-term emergency benefits, or earned benefits like unemployment compensation or non-governmental grants are not included. Immigrant survivors should be encouraged to access health, food, housing benefits and other supports they need to overcome the harm they’ve experienced.
  • The rule lists out the categories of individuals that are exempt from the public charge rule including VAWA Self Petitioners, and U- and T- visa holders (in current status), as well as refugees, asylees, and those with Temporary Protected Status, Special Immigrant Juvenile status, among others.
  • The recipient of benefits is clarified to only apply to the person seeking status, and not their children or other household members who are not seeking to be admitted. Recipients of benefits do not include those who applied but did not receive benefits, such as parents who apply for their US Citizen children.
  • The rule spells out the statutory factors to be considered (i.e. age, family status, income, health, education, availability of a valid Affidavit of Support) in examining the totality of circumstances to be considered if one is likely to become a public charge.

API-GBV and our partners will continue to work with DHS to support survivor-supportive language as they develop policy guidance for immigration officers and new forms to implement the rule.

API-GBV will be holding a webinar to clarify some of the rule’s provisions in the next few months. You can also find general updates and information from the Protecting Immigrant Families campaign.