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Immigrants and Public Benefits

How to Avoid Becoming a Public Charge


Immigrants and Public Benefits Questions & Answers

I'm immigrating through a family member and worried that my visa will denied because my sponsor is on welfare.

Using public benefits does not prevent your relative from sponsoring your immigration. Sponsors (alone or with a co-sponsor) must show on the Affidavit of Support that they meet 125% of the poverty level. If part of that income is from welfare, that's okay.

If I take advantage of public benefits, will it hurt my chances of becoming a U.S. citizen?

You may use any of the benefits that you are lawfully entitled to without affecting future naturalization. Improper use of public benefits may have an impact when you apply for citizenship.

I'm a green card holder. Can I travel outside the U.S. if I'm using public benefits?

Yes you can, but be aware that if you receive cash welfare or long-term care and travel outside the U.S. of more than 6 months, your public benefits use will be carefully considered.

Permanent residents traveling outside the U.S. for more than 6 months should be aware that upon their return they are applying for readmission to the U.S. when they present their green card to authorities at the port of entry. If any grounds of inadmissibility are found at the time of application--which includes grounds for public charge--the green card holder could be denied entry to the United States. Stays outside the U.S. of less than 180 days are not subject to readmission application and therefore there is no reason to question whether or not the green card holder is a public charge.

If you receive benefits and will be traveling for more than a month, you should check with the agency before leaving to find out if you can continue to receive benefits while you're away. In general, you are not allowed to receive benefits if you are outside the state or country for more than 30 days.

Isn't it true that I will lose my permanent resident status if I use cash welfare or long-term care within the first 5 years of being in the U.S.?

USCIS says that only in rare circumstances would a permanent resident be considered deportable as a public charge in this kind of scenario. If you can show that the cause for this type of assistance existed only after entry into the U.S., removal proceedings would not be initiated.

If my children receive public benefits am I considered a public charge?

An immigrant's children or other family members may receive public benefits without it affecting the immigrant, unless the immigrant relies on that benefit as the family's sole means of support.

Can refugees or those granted asylum use public benefits?

This group of immigrants may use any public benefit without restriction and without hurting their chances of getting a green card.

Helpful Public Benefits Links

USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
Includes eligibility information and links to information about food stamps, WIC and school meal programs.

CHIP (Children's Health Insurance)
Find a list of contacts in your state.

The official benefits website of the U.S. government. Search benefit and assistance programs or complete the anonymous online screening tool to determine your eligibility for government benefit programs.

Source: USCIS

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