Statement on Public Charge

In a statement dated March 9, 2021, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security addressed the 2019 public charge rule, stating:

"Today, DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced that the government will no longer defend the 2019 public charge rule as doing so is neither in the public interest nor an efficient use of limited government resources."

Read the full statement

Originally published Sept. 20, 2019

Dear international students and scholars,

As you know, here at the University of California, Davis, we are committed to building a diverse community of students, scholars, faculty, and staff. This includes the over 10,000 international students and scholars we welcome to campus from around the world.

Changing government rules regarding the definition of persons considered a “public charge” have created much uncertainty among our international community. We hope that the following summary will provide you with an introduction to this issue.  

The information provided on this webpage does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No reader, user, or browser of this site should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on this site without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. Only your individual attorney can provide assurances that the information contained herein – and your interpretation of it – is applicable or appropriate to your particular situation. 

Public charge determination issues can be complex and it is important to consult with an experienced immigration attorney, if needed.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Final Rule on Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds, Effective October 15 

Under the Final Rule, the DHS will determine whether an international student or scholar applying for admission or adjustment of status (green card) is inadmissible to the U.S. based on the likelihood of becoming a public charge. 

Under the new rule, "public charge" means a non-US citizen who receives one or more public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period (such that, for instance, receipt of two benefits in one month counts as two months)."

General list of “public benefits” that may be considered:

  1. Any federal, state, or local cash assistance for income maintenance (other than tax credits):
    • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
    • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
    • Federal, state, or local cash benefit programs for income maintenance
  2. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; commonly known as “food stamps”)
  3. Section 8 Housing Assistance/Rental Assistance
  4. Medicaid, with some exceptions such as emergency medical services or benefits received by aliens under 21 years of age, or women during pregnancy (and during 60 days following last day of pregnancy)
  5. Public Housing under Section 9 of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937

Applicants for admission or adjustment of status

The DHS will consider eachcase under a totality of the circumstances test (that weighs age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education and skills) to make a prospective, forward-looking determination of whether someone is likely at any time to become a public charge as defined by the new rule. 

DHS will apply the new public charge rule to applications and petitions postmarked on or after October 15, 2019. DHS will make available revised versions of several of their forms and current versions are accepted only with applications/petitions postmarked on or before October 14, 2019. 

Nonimmigrants applying for a change or extension of status

The DHS will consider whether the applicant has received one or more of the listed public benefits over the designated duration threshold since obtaining that nonimmigrant visa status. F-1 and J-1 status extensions may be less affected since no Form I-539 has to be filed with DHS. 

It is unclear if the new rule will apply to F-1 reinstatements.

Applicants at U.S. ports of entry and consulates abroad

According to the Final Rule, “DHS primarily applies the public charge ground of inadmissibility at ports of entry and when adjudicating certain applications for adjustment of status. This rule amends the standards applicable to those contexts, and also sets forth evidentiary requirements applicable to the adjustment of status context.”

DHS noted its expectation that the U.S. State Department will align its own current public charge policy that applies to the visa application process at consular posts with DHS. 

More information

We hope this information provides clarity. We will continue to post updates here as more information becomes available. 

Please contacts SISS at siss@ucdavis.edu or (530) 752-0864 or schedule an appointment with your advisor if you have additional questions. 


Joanna Regulska
Vice Provost and Associate Chancellor of Global Affairs 

Wesley Young
Director of Services for International Students and Scholars within Global Affairs

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