Department of Homeland Security Rule on Public Charge

DHS logo


Information Memo


  • The federal government recently issued a new rule on what is called "public charge."
  • 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.

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).  The rule goes into effect on October 15, 2019.

Action for Staff to Take

The publication of this rule will likely worsen the fear and anxiety that DHS customers and immigrant families may already be experiencing.  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. The links below are two 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. We know that benefits may be very important to your family. We understand that this new rule may make you worried about using your benefits. Several resources are available to help you understand the Public Charge rule:

This fact sheet provides information about the rule and who is affected by it:



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:

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