Updated May 2021

While fear and confusion around the public charge rule continue to keep people from signing up for health coverage and scare some into disenrolling, there are best practices you can use to answer questions and increase confidence in enrolling for your clients.

First, it is crucial to remember that unless you are a lawyer, you cannot give legal advice. Legal advice could take the form of telling a client that they can or cannot apply for an immigration option and advising clients on their specific immigration case. For these services, clients should consult an immigration attorney. (See a list of free and low-cost immigration attorneys here)

Thankfully, there are many ways to explain and answer questions about public charge without giving legal advice to clients. You should be prepared to explain the facts of public charge and answer common questions. Commonly asked questions include:

Question Sample Answer Resource
Do I qualify for benefits? You may, depending on your immigration status, let’s look into that together. CKF’s Immigration Status and Eligibility for Health Coverage Programs

This resource was designed to be used by the assister but can be shared with clients.

If I use the benefit, will it affect my immigration status? That depends on your immigration status and if you plan to apply for a green card Protecting Immigrant Families’ Public Charge: Does This Apply to Me? (available in seven languages here). This resource is designed to be shared with clients.
If I am applying for a green card, will the fact that my child receives benefits count against me? No, if you are applying for a green card in the U.S., your kid can use benefits without it affecting you. However, if you will be applying for a green card at a consulate outside of the U.S., different rules apply. You should talk to an immigration attorney for advice.* Protecting Immigrant Families’ What Should I Know When Enrolling My Children in Public Benefits? fact sheet (available in ten languages here).
*Consulates follow the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM). The Department of State issued a new rule to align the FAM process with the public charge process inside the U.S. The FAM changes will go into effect if and when public charge does in the U.S.

Some more suggestions:

  • Have physical copies of fact sheets and resources in your office that clients can take home. When available, offer resources in multiple languages.
  • Remind clients that the public charge rule has returned to rules from before the changes in 2019. Only cash assistance for income maintenance and Medicaid for institutional long-term care are considered in immigration decisions.
  • When clients come in with specific questions about their cases, direct them to a local immigration attorney. Free and low-cost attorneys can be found here: National Immigration Legal Services Directory.

Additional information is available from CKF, including our Job Aid: Key Points for Assisters to Help Clients Understand Public Charge, and Protecting Immigrant Families.

See more fact sheets are available online from Protecting Immigrant Families and a timeline of public charge here.