Community Resources

Public Charge

Public charge is a term used within immigration law to denote someone who is, or is likely to become, primarily reliant upon government benefits and assistance programs for survival. The test is used in applications for lawful permanent residency (green cards) or admission to the United States – including diversity visa applications and applications to renew, change or extend visas. It is not used in processing applications for U.S. citizenship or naturalization. Depending on the “totality of circumstances” of the individual, a public charge determination could result in a denied immigration application, denied re-entry into the U.S., or deportation from the country.

Any benefits not specifically listed in the rule will continue to be excluded from the public charge test. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
  • Child care and development
  • Disaster relief
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
  • Emergency medical assistance
  • Employment and job-training
  • Federal student financial aid
  • Food banks
  • Head Start
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy
  • National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs
  • Pell Grants
  • Benefits received by immigrant’s family members
  • Any other benefit not specifically listed in the rule

Individuals and families who have questions or concerns about the impact of using public benefits on their immigration status should contact an immigration attorney. Resources may be available through one of the organizations listed on the Governor’s website.

Additionally, you may contact one of the following organizations for help:

  • CLEAR Hotline: 1-888-201-1014
  • Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP):
    • NWIRP Seattle Office: 206-587-4009
    • NWIRP Yakima Valley (Granger) Office: 509-854-2100
    • NWIRP Wenatchee Office: 509-570-0054

Public Charge Fact Sheet for Families

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has proposed significant changes to the way the “public charge test” in federal law is applied to immigrants seeking to obtain legal status. Learn more about this new proposal and its impact on immigrants who use programs that help participants meet their basic needs, including Medicaid, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka “food stamps”), and Section 8 housing.

Families Fact Sheet for Public Charge
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Center for Children with Special Needs
An information source for families and professionals. Focused on children and youth with special health needs who have physical, developmental, behavioral or emotional conditions. 

Parent to Parent
Support and information for families of children with developmental disabilities.

Washington State Fathers Network
Support and information for fathers and families of children with special needs.

Washington Partnerships for Action Voices for Empowerment (PAVE)
Information and resources with people whose lives are linked to children and adults with disabilities.

Department of Health Early Hearing Loss publications
Department of Health publications about early hearing loss for families.

Washington Hands and Voices
Supporting families with children who are deaf, deaf-blind or hard of hearing by providing families with resources, networks, and information needed to improve communication and educational outcomes for their children.

Family to Family Health Information Center
Working to achieve family-centered care for all children and youth with special health care needs and/or disabilities.

Zero to Three
Provides information, training, and support for professionals, policymakers, and parents in their efforts to improve the lives of infants and toddlers.

Washington Health Benefit Exchange
As part of national health care reform, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange is creating Washington Healthplanfinder, an online marketplace for individuals, families and small businesses in Washington to compare and enroll in quality health insurance plans and access important cost savings. Open enrollment starts October 1, 2013.