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Do Public Benefits Affect my Citizenship Application?

Hope Nakamura • September 21, 2020

Hope Nakamura is the Directing Attorney at The Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County.

Some people are worried that public benefits will hurt their application for U.S. citizenship. They have heard about changes to the "public charge rule." But the public charge rule focuses on a person applying for a Green card through a family petition.

The public charge rule does not affect:

  • U.S. Citizens or Applicants for Citizenship
  • Permanent Residents (Green card holders). Note: if a Green card holder leaves the U.S. for more than six months, the Public Charge rule can apply when they try to return.
  • People who have or are applying for certain humanitarian-based immigration statuses (asylum, TPS, T or U Visa, VAWA, and more).


If you have a Green card, it is generally safe to get the public benefits you qualify for. But if you receive public benefits, do not take a trip outside the U.S. for longer than six months. (Trips outside the U.S. for more than six months can make you lose your permanent residency too).

For more information about public benefits, public charge, and immigrants, go to: https://protectingimmigrantfamilies.org/know-your-rights/.

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