Report: What Would the Public Charge Rule Mean for You?

Sweeping rule-change puts many immigrants at risk, new data shows

Jan 3, 2020

IMPORTANT UPDATE — MARCH 9, 2021: Both the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) public charge rule and the Department of State (DOS) public charge policy are currently not in effect. The DHS rule was halted on March 9, 2021, while the DOS policy was paused indefinitely on July 29, 2020. This page reflects those policies, which initially took effect on Feb. 24, 2020, and will not be immediately updated according to the previous, longstanding guidance issued in 1999. Learn more.

We will update this page as more information becomes available.

More than a third of immigrants and visitors to the United States are at significant risk of being denied green cards, visas, and other crucial immigration benefits under the public charge rule, according to a new report from Boundless.

The report, based on a survey of more than 1,600 people who used Boundless’s online Public Charge Risk Estimator, found that 30% of respondents are at high risk of being labeled a public charge and denied immigration benefits, with another 3.7% at moderate risk.

With almost 1.1 million green cards issued in 2018, that means that around 370,000 people a year could face a significant risk of being denied permanent residency under the new rule, with many more at risk of being denied temporary visas and other benefits.

Let’s take a look at some of the key findings from the report:

1. Income is the main risk factor

Several fanned out $100 bills

Almost one in five respondents face a high risk of being labeled a public charge because they have insufficient income, defined as less than 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. A lack of employment history or experience caring for a family member is also a significant risk factor, affecting more than 11% of respondents.

By contrast, less than 4% of respondents had recently applied for public benefits, and less than 2% had insufficient resources to cover their medical costs, suggesting that relatively few people excluded under the public charge rule would actually have gone on to require public assistance.

2. Anglophone and European immigrants at lowest risk

Hands painted with a world map.

Immigrants from Europe and from English-speaking regions such as Canada and Australia are at the lowest risk of falling foul of the public charge rule: less than 22% of Europeans and less than 15% of respondents from Canada and Oceania fall into the high-risk category.

By contrast, 35% of people from Central America and the Caribbean, and more than 33% of people from Africa and South America, were at a high risk of being rejected under the public charge rule.

3. Gender makes a difference

A pictogram of male and female.

There were significant gender disparities in the risk faced by respondents. Overall, men were slightly less likely than women to face a high risk of rejection under the public charge rule, but there were major variations by region.

Canadian and Oceanian men were about 69% more likely than women to fall into the high-risk category, although overall risk levels for both men and women from the region were relatively low. South American men were about 52% more likely than women to be at a high risk of rejection, with 44% of the region’s men at high risk of having visa applications denied. By contrast, women from Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, South and Central Asia, and the Middle East were markedly more likely than men to face a high risk of being labeled a public charge.

4. Family-based applicants at the most risk

An immigrant family stands together.

Almost six out of 10 applicants for family preference green cards are at substantial risk of being labeled a public charge, compared to less than three out of every 10 marriage-based green card applicants, the survey found.

Even employment-based green card applicants will be hurt by the public charge rule, though, with more than a quarter facing a substantial risk of having their applications denied. More than a quarter of educated professionals will also face a substantial risk of having their green cards denied, regardless of the green card category they use.

Want to know more? Check out the The Public Charge Rule: Which Immigrants Are Most At Risk? report for all the details from the survey, including data sorted by country of origin — or use the Boundless Public Charge Risk Estimator to find out how the public charge rule would affect your own immigration journey.

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