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Key Points
  • Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked DHS from enforcing the Public Charge rule nationwide on December 2, 2020
  • The injunction applies to 18 states and Washington, DC
  • The Public Charge rule can still be enforced in all other states
  • USCIS has yet to provide a public announcement on the December 2nd ruling
  • USCIS may appeal the decision and additional litigation is expected

On December 2, 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the federal government from enforcing the Public Charge rule.

What are the Changes?

The latest ruling prevents the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from denying foreign nationals access to certain government benefits, including medical assistance, in Washington, DC, and 18 states.

In its decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld two preliminary injunctions that blocked DHS from applying the Public Charge rule nationwide. The agency is currently prohibited from enforcing the Public Charge rule in the Plaintiff states in State of Washington et al. v DHS. Those states include California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, and Washington, DC.

The Public Charge rule can still be enforced in all other states.

Who is Affected?

The Public Charge rule applies to foreign nationals who receive or are eligible to receive certain government benefits including Medicare, food stamps, and housing vouchers. Foreign nationals who are deemed likely to become a public charge may be denied a visa, green card, or entry into the US. Immigration officers have the discretion to determine an individual’s likelihood of becoming a public charge.


The Public Charge rule was implemented nationwide on February 24, 2020. It has been the subject of extensive litigation since then. On July 29, 2020, the Public Charge rule was enjoined nationwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On August 12, 2020, the injunction was limited to Connecticut, New York, and Vermont. The injunction was lifted nationwide on September 11, 2020.

Looking Ahead

USCIS has not yet released a public update on the December 2, 2020 ruling. A government appeal is possible following yesterday’s ruling.

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