Can asylum seekers use public benefits?

There has been a lot of news recently about the use of public benefits and public charge. You should know that the public charge test does not apply to asylum seekers. If you have asylum or are in the process of applying for asylum and qualify for government benefits, you can continue to use those benefits. The most important thing is to ensure you meet the requirements before applying for a public benefit.

There should be non-profit organizations in your city that can help assess whether you qualify for public benefits in your state, or if there are other resources available to asylum seekers in your area. In addition, you can read about coronavirus resources in this publication.

More information on public charge
In 2019, the U.S. government announced new rules to expand the benefits that would be considered part of the definition of “public charge.” Under the new rules, the use of public benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps, and other types of public assistance can affect the eligibility of certain immigrants to receive permanent residency.

Organizations that defend the rights of immigrants are fighting against these new rules in court. However, on November 3, 2020, a higher court ruled that USCIS can still enforce the changes to the public charge rule nationwide.

However, if you are approved for asylum and after one year you want to adjust your status to permanent resident, USING PUBLIC BENEFITS DOES NOT AFFECT YOU.

If you have another type of pending immigration case or process (for example, if you are applying for adjustment of status based on a family relationship) or you could in the future, you should talk to your attorney – or hire an attorney if you don’t have one – to find out if public charge will impact you.

Also, many public programs are not considered in the public charge test. For example, COVID-19 testing and treatment are not considered as part of the public charge test.

You can review this resource for more information.

Note: This information is for asylum seekers in the United States and does not replace the advice of an attorney.