New Public Charge Rules for Consular Processing

I’ve previously posted about the proposed changes to the rules about “public charge.” While these rules don’t apply yet to people getting their green card inside the United States (known as “adjustment of status), if you are getting your green card from a consulate outside the United States (known as “consular processing”), it is important to understand that new “public charge” rules are already being enforced. 

What does “Public Charge” Mean?

According to the law, you are a public charge if you mainly depend on the government for cash benefits. The consulate does not have to believe that you have been a public charge in the past. They only have to believe that you are likely to become a public charge in the future. 

The “Old” Public Charge Rule

The old rule said a person would not be considered a public charge if the petitioner or a joint sponsor filed an I-864 and proved to have an income over 125% of the poverty guidelines

The “New” Public Charge Rule

With the new rules, an I-864 and proving income over 125% of the poverty guidelines isn’t enough to satisfy the public charge requirement. The consulate will now consider your circumstances along with the I-864. The government will at least consider your age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, and skills. According to the rule, the consulate is allowed to consider other factors that the decision-maker thinks are relevant.


If you are under 18 years of age and are not coming to the United States with a parent or guardian, you may be considered a public charge if you cannot show that you have skills to get a job. If you are elderly, the consulate may believe that your mature age will cause additional healthcare costs.


If you have a health problem that is likely to cost a lot of money, the consulate can use that to say you are likely to become a public charge, especially if you cannot prove you have health insurance in the United States.

Family Status

Having a large number of people who depend on you financially may be a reason the consulate considers you to be likely to become a public charge.

Assets, Resources, and Financial Status

Instead of only looking at the petitioner or joint sponsor’s financial information, the consulate can now look at your financial information. If you do not have significant assets or you have a history of being unemployed, the consulate may hold this against you. 

Education and Skills

If you are unable to demonstrate that you have enough education or skills to get a job, the consulate may consider you likely to become a public charge.

How to Address Public Charge Factors Under the New Rules

To prevent a public charge finding at the consulate, you will need to present more than just financial documents. If you are under 18, have your petitioner or joint sponsor write a letter explaining your relationship and why he or she wants to financially support you. If your doctor writes a letter giving you a clean bill of health, this will help you with both the age and health factors if you are elderly. If you have a large family, providing a credit report that shows a small number of derogatory marks will help show that you are able to financially manage your large number of dependents. You, your petitioner, or your joint sponsor should provide evidence of any assets you have, like a house, car, or savings account. Submit letters from previous employers or educational certificates to show that you are able to get and keep a job. Even if you don’t have a prior education, enrolling in and taking a course that will help you establish job skills will show the consulate that you are willing to put forth effort to be employed. 

What Happens If the Consulate Says I Am a Public Charge?

If the consulate says you are likely to become a public charge, you’ll be considered “inadmissible” and will not be given a green card. If you have an approved I-601A provisional waiver, your waiver will be revoked. As immigration lawyers, we use our skills, knowledge, and experience to help you avoid a denial based on public charge considerations. 

Our Immigration Lawyers Can Help

If the consulate decides that it considers you to be a “public charge,” you won’t get a green card and you won’t be allowed to come to the United States. Many people have been stuck outside of the United States because the consulate says they are a public charge. It is important to get ahead of the problem and do everything you can to prevent being labeled a public charge before you go to your interview at the consulate. Contact the Goldstein Immigration Lawyers for help with your immigration case today.