Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Bans Public Charge Rule in Certain States

Last Updated on February 23, 2023

Key Points

  • Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked DHS from enforcing the Public Charge rule nationwide on Dec. 2, 2020
  • The injunction applies to 18 states and Washington, D.C.
  • The Public Charge rule can still be enforced in all other states
  • USCIS has yet to provide a public announcement on the Dec. 2nd ruling
  • Additional litigation is expected 


On December 2, 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the federal government from enforcing the Public Charge rule nationwide in City and County of San Francisco; County of Santa Clara v. USCIS et al.

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 its decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld two preliminary injunctions that blocked DHS from applying the Public Charge rule nationwide. At this time, the agency is currently prohibited from enforcing the Public Charge rule in California, District of Columbia, Maine, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Hawaii.

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. At this time, we encourage reaching out to your immigration counsel to determine the appropriate filing strategy in these states. We also expect litigation to continue following this ruling.

Envoy will publish additional updates as they become available.

Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Sara Herbek, who is the Managing Partner at Global Immigration Associates, P.C. (, Envoy’s affiliated law firm.

Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an Envoy-affiliated attorney or another qualified professional.