General Government Benefits for Asylum Seekers and the “Public Charge Rule”

Last updated on April 18, 2024

Each U.S. state has different rules about what assistance asylum seekers can receive from the government. This may include benefits such as housing support, financial support, food support, and support for pregnant women, babies, and young children. For some benefits, if you have U.S. citizen children, you may be able to receive benefits on their behalf, regardless of your own immigration status.

Applying for government benefits, as long as you are truthful when you complete application forms, does not affect your case for asylum. The “public charge” rule that affects some types of immigration cases does not apply to asylum.

How can I find information about the assistance available in my state or city?

  • You can search for community organizations or immigration lawyers in your area to ask for help. They may be able to offer assistance, or may be able to help you understand what government benefits you are eligible for.
  • In many areas of the United States, you can also call the phone number 211 and speak with a specialist about what government benefits you can apply for.

Will receiving government assistance affect my asylum case?

No! Receiving assistance from the U.S. government does not affect your asylum case. Receiving government assistance (also known as public benefits) also does not affect your ability to apply for a green card based on asylum in the future.

Will receiving government assistance affect my case if I am applying for a different immigration status besides asylum? Will it be considered a “public charge”?

Maybe. If you are applying for a different immigration status other than asylum, such as a family-based green card, it is possible that using some types of government assistance could affect your immigration case. This is known as the “public charge” rule.

However, only very specific types of government assistance can affect your immigration case, and many immigrants are not even eligible to receive these types of assistance. The only types of government assistance (public benefits) that can affect your immigration case are:

  1. Direct cash assistance through government programs called Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and General Assistance (GA).
  2. Medicaid for long-term medical care in a nursing home, psychiatric hospital, or other institution.

Visit this ASAP page and this page from another organization to learn more details about the public charge rule and who it affects.

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