USCIS: Alien parent not a ‘public charge’ if US citizen child applied as beneficiary

Posted on Feb 27 2020


When a U.S. citizen child applied and received Medicaid or food stamp as a beneficiary, his or her alien parent is not considered a “public charge,” according to Matthew Bourke of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Media Affairs Division yesterday.

“If they were considered a ‘public charge,’ then it would not be because of public benefits received by the U.S. citizen child,” said Bourke in response to Saipan Tribune’s request for clarification about the “public charge” rule.

A “public charge” is a person who receives government cash assistance for income or long-term care. That means one who received food stamp or Medicaid benefits.

Many alien parents of U.S. citizen children in the CNMI are confused whether they are considered a “public charge” when, in fact, it’s their children who applied and benefitted from Medicaid and food stamp. These alien parents are worried that when they submit an application for a “green card” they will be denied that, being a “public charge.” A “green card” refers to the Permanent Resident Card, a document issued to immigrants who have been allowed permanent residence in the United States. It is colored green, hence the name.

Bourke said this issue is addressed several times in the final “public charge” rule.

Bourke said the final rule clearly states that “the Department of Homeland Security will not attribute U.S. citizen children’s receipt of public benefits to their parents who are subject to the ‘public charge’ inadmissibility ground.”

He said USCIC only considers the alien to have received a public benefit if the alien is a named beneficiary of the benefit, but not where an alien is applying, being certified to receive, or receiving a public benefit on behalf of another person.

“USCIS does not consider any public benefit received by, requested by, or certified for a U.S. citizen or any relative or household member of the alien,” Bourke said.

An example of “not considered as received, requested or certified for the alien” is when the alien parent is applying for a public benefit on behalf of a U.S. citizen child, Bourke said.

He said the following are also not considered “received, requested, or certified for the alien”:

The alien is the legal guardian or has power of attorney of the alien’s lawful permanent resident parent and is applying for a benefit on behalf of such parent; or

The alien is designated by the public benefit-granting agency to receive the public benefit on behalf of the beneficiary.

Bourke said documentation provided by the benefit-granting agency may indicate that the alien is the guardian, designated representative, or that the beneficiary is the care of (c/o in an address block) the alien.

“Not all public benefit-granting agencies would require a person to be a parent or legal guardian for the alien or have power of attorney to receive the benefit and USCIS does not request such information,” he said.

Bourke said USCIS officers would review documentation provided by the benefit-granting agency to determine whether the alien is the direct beneficiary of the public benefit or if he or she is receiving the benefit on behalf of another person.

USCIS announced early this week that it will implement the inadmissibility on “public charge” grounds final rule on Feb. 24, 2020, nationwide, including in Illinois, following another judiciary victory lifting the injunction in that state.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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