“Technically speaking, the public charge rule has not ended. It’s a cornerstone of immigration law since the 1800s,” said Michael Freestone, a partner in the immigration group of Tully Rinckey PLLC. “What the Trump administration did was they reinterpreted the rule. The general rule was that individuals who would be required to be supported by the state would be considered a public charge and thus inadmissible to the U.S. What the Trump administration did was they rewrote the interpretation and applied it across several agencies. It basically interpreted public charge as broadly as you could.”
The public charge rule originally was written to enable the U.S. government to deny a visa to anyone who “is likely at any time to become a public charge.” An immigrant who is likely at any time to become a public charge is generally inadmissible to the U.S. and ineligible to become a lawful permanent resident. Under the final rule, a public charge is defined as an alien who has received one or more public benefits, as defined in the rule, for more than 12 months within any 36-month period, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).