Overview of "Public Charge" Classification

Nonimmigrants (including students in F-1 and J-1 status) are prohibited by US law from becoming a “public charge,” i.e., someone who is financially dependent on government funds, in the United States. When nonimmigrants apply for visas, they are required to show documentation of sufficient funds to cover all of their living expenses, and those of their dependents, during their stay in the United States. The ability to cover all of one’s personal and family expenses is a condition of obtaining and maintaining F-1 or J-1 status.

Risk of Public Charge Classification for International Students

International students should be cautious when accepting public benefits from federal, state, county, or local government agencies because doing so could jeopardize their nonimmigrant status. Almost all non-cash government benefits such as nutrition assistance, however, are excluded from consideration. The key thing the US government considers when determining whether a non-US citizen would become a public charge is if the noncitizen is likely to become primarily dependent on the US government for subsistence.

If you have any questions or need assistance managing your financial obligations, consult with an advisor at OGS. If you have questions about Public Charge determination surrounding visa applications, adjustment of status, change of status, or extension of stay applications, please consult with an experienced immigration lawyer.