UPDATE: Department of Homeland Security Rule on Public Charge

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Information Memo


  • The Department of Homeland Security's final "Public Charge" rule was scheduled to go into effect on October 15, 2019 but has been blocked by several federal court orders and is not currently in effect.
  • This memorandum is intended to provide DHS staff with information and resources to respond to concerned customers who have questions about how the public charge rule affects their eligibility for program benefits.

The federal government recently issued a new rule on what is called public charge. The rule is currently blocked from proceeding but may eventually be implemented if legal issues are resolved. Under the public charge rule, an individual may be denied admission to the U.S. or, once here, be denied lawful permanent resident status (a "green card") if immigration officials find that they are, or are likely to become, a public charge - that is, someone who relies on government support for basic needs. Previously, only cash assistance and long-term institutional care could make a person a public charge, but the new rule adds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid (EXCEPT for emergency Medicaid, Medicaid for pregnant women and people under 21 years old, or services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), many federal housing programs, and cash assistance (TANF, SSI, General Assistance).

Action for Staff to Take

The publication of this rule may have worsened the fear and anxiety that DHS customers and immigrant families were already experiencing. News coverage of the rule and recent orders blocking its implementation may have increased confusion and concerns. Staff are asked to provide information and resources to the customer in a calm, supportive, and patient manner, keeping in mind that only a small number of DHS customers will be directly affected by the rule, but many will be afraid. Training, technical assistance, and materials will be provided to DHS staff about this new rule soon. In the meantime, please use the script below when talking to customers who call or visit with questions or concerns about the public charge rule. Links are provided below for resources that provide more information on the rule, who it affects, and contact information to a variety of organizations who can help the customer understand the public charge rule and what it means to them and their families.

Staff Script

You may have heard about a new government rule that says your immigration status could be affected by using certain benefit programs. This is sometimes called the public charge rule. The rule is currently NOT in effect and will not go into effect until certain legal challenges are resolved.

We know that benefits may be very important to your family. We understand that this rule may make you worried about using your benefits. The changes to who may be determined a public charge apply only to those applying for a green card (also known as an LPR), and to green card holders who leave the country for an extended period of time. The public charge test does not apply to those who already have a green card or those who are applying for citizenship. Certain people are not subject to the public charge test, such as refugees and asylees, this means they won't face the test even when they apply for their green card.

Several resources are available to help you understand the Public Charge rule:

English: Public Charge: Making the Right Choice for Your Family (pdf) 

Spanish: Cargo público: tomar la decisión correcta para su familia (pdf)

This list provides contact information for a variety of organizations in the community who can help you understand what the public charge rule means for you and your family: Public Charge Information Centers Contact List (pdf)

We encourage you to speak with one of the community organizations on this list before making any decisions to cancel your benefits.

[signed copy on file]

Gracie B. Hou

Secretary, Illinois Department of Human Services