What Is the Public Charge Test?

First added to federal law in 1882, the public charge test applies to two types of immigrants:

  1. Immigrants applying for visas (“green cards”) from outside the United States to reunite with family;
  2. Immigrants living here who have applied for green cards, including undocumented immigrants and documented immigrants without green cards.

To pass the public charge test, immigrants must show that they are unlikely to end up living in long-term-care institutions funded by Medicaid or wholly dependent on means-tested cash assistance, like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), to survive.