Public Charge


The term public charge describes someone who is heavily dependent on government assistance. When people apply to be admitted to the United States, or to become lawful permanent residents, or to extend or change their visas, the government considers whether the applicant is likely to be a public charge in the future. Immigration officials consider the ‘totality of circumstances,’ which includes the individual’s age, health, family status, financial status, education, and skills, as well as family members who may support them. One aspect they consider is the kinds of public programs an applicant has used. Changes to the public charge rule have been proposed, but have not been decided yet.

It is important for consumers to know that:

  • Financial help through Covered California, including advanced premium tax credit (APTC), state premium assistance, and cost-sharing reduction (CSR) to help pay for care, are NOT public benefits under the new rule and will NOT be considered when making a public charge determination.

  • If you are applying for financial help through Covered California’s online application, Covered California will check your eligibility for Medi-Cal and for financial assistance through Covered California. If the changes to rule eventually go into effect, some Medi-Cal programs ARE considered public benefits under this rule, but each family’s situation is different. 

  • The public charge rule is complex and may affect families differently based on their unique situation. If you have more questions, please visit the Health Consumer Alliance’s website or call at (888) 804-3536 to speak with a local immigration attorney about the public charge rule. Or visit the Department of Social Services website for a list of community organizations that can provide free, confidential legal assistance related to public charge.
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