TN 76 (01-24)

SI 00501.450 Alien Requests for Information About Possible Deportation for Receiving SSI

A. Background

Public charge has been part of U.S. immigration law for many years as grounds of inadmissibility, ineligibility to adjust status, and deportation. Under U.S. immigration law, an alien:

  • Is inadmissible and ineligible to become a legal permanent resident of the United States if they are likely at any time to become a public charge; or

  • Can be deported if:

    1. 1. 

      They become a public charge within five years of entering the United States from causes that existed before entry;

    2. 2. 

      Their sponsor has signed a legally enforceable affidavit of support; and

    3. 3. 

      The sponsor fails to repay the benefit granting agency the cash benefits received or the cost of institutionalization for long-term care.

Instances of deportation on public charge grounds have been, and are expected to be, very rare.

B. Definition of public charge

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is implementing the following definition of “public charge”:


    “An alien who has become (for deportation purposes) or is likely to become (for admission or adjustment of status purposes) primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.”

Not all publicly funded benefits are considered in deciding whether someone is or is likely to become a public charge. Benefits that are considered “public cash assistance for income maintenance” are SSI, cash Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and State/local cash assistance programs. In addition, the costs for institutionalization for long-term care, which may be provided under Medicaid or other programs, may be considered in making public charge determinations. (Note: Social Security benefits are not considered to be “public cash assistance for income maintenance” under the DHS guidance. Thus, the receipt of Social Security and other earned benefits cannot affect an individual's immigration status.)

C. Policy — effect of DHS public charge determinations on SSI benefits

The DHS public charge guidance does not affect eligibility for benefits under SSI. Noncitizens who are currently receiving SSI and whose health and financial conditions cause them to rely on SSI in the future, may be assured that the public charge policy has not changed the social safety net provided by the SSI program for low-income aged, blind, and disabled individuals.

D. Procedure — answering questions regarding SSI eligibility and public charge policy

If questions are received, assure the inquirer that SSI eligibility will not be affected. However, because receipt of SSI is one factor the DHS would consider in making its determination, advise the individual to contact DHS for more information about the implications of the public charge policy on their immigration status.

Also tell inquirers that DHS guidance explains the mere receipt of cash assistance for income maintenance, or being institutionalized for long-term care, does not automatically make them inadmissible, ineligible to adjust status to legal permanent resident or deportable on public charge grounds. The law requires that DHS and Department of State officials consider several additional issues as well. Each determination will be made on a case-by-case basis. SSA is not involved with public charge determinations.

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SI 00501.450 - Alien Requests for Information About Possible Deportation for Receiving SSI - 01/05/2024
Batch run: 01/05/2024