WHAT IS PUBLIC CHARGE?
The “public charge test” is used by immigration officials to decide whether a person can enter the U.S. or get a Green Card. With the public charge test, officials look at a person’s circumstances, including income, employment, health, education, skills, family situation and whether a sponsor signed a contract (“affidavit of support”) promising to support the person. Officials can also look at whether a person has used certain benefit programs. In the past, only cash assistance and long-term care were counted.
WHAT ARE THE CHANGES TO THE PUBLIC CHARGE TEST?
Beginning Feb. 24, 2020, immigration officials will look more closely at factors like health, age, income, skills (including English language skills), and consider more public programs, including:
• Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP 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 or TANF)
***Services that are not listed above will NOT be counted in the new public charge test. This includes Central Health's Medical Access Programs (MAP & MAP BASIC), WIC, CHIP, school lunches, food banks, shelters, and many more. These programs are safe to use if you are eligible.
ARE LOCAL HEALTH COVERAGE PROGRAMS AFFECTED?
No. Central Health’s Medical Access Programs (MAP and MAP BASIC), Project Access, and the County Health Indigent Program are local health coverage programs and therefore are not affected by the regulation. All uninsured Travis County residents eligible for MAP and MAP BASIC should continue to enroll without fear it will affect their pathway towards a Green Card.
Community health centers (such as CommUnityCare) are not affected by the regulation. If you are a patient at a local community health center, you should continue seeing your doctor.
WHERE CAN I GO FOR LEGAL ASSISTANCE?
- RAICES provides affirmative, defensive, and litigation services to low-income immigrants. Download the RAÍCES flyer (English, Spanish)
- American Gateways provides citizenship and immigration services at no or low cost to people in Austin, San Antonio and Central Texas. Download the American Gateways flyer (English, Spanish, Arabic, Korean, Nepali)
- Catholic Charities of Central Texas is dedicated to helping people of all ages, faiths, ethnic backgrounds and economic circumstances. Services include immigration legal services. Download the Catholic Charities flyer
Note: CommUnityCare is offering this list as a courtesy and not as an endorsement of any particular organization or person.