Does filing for unemployment put someone at risk under public charge? (from immigrationimpact.com)

No. When the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published the public charge rule, it made clear that receiving unemployment benefits is not considered to be receiving a “public benefit.” This is because unemployment is an “earned benefit” that workers pay into with their paychecks. This includes Medicare and Social Security.

Not every immigrant laid off due to COVID-19 will be eligible for unemployment. People seeking to file for unemployment generally must be legally authorized to work. Some states extend unemployment benefits to individuals with DACA, while others do not.

Could a period of unemployment due to the coronavirus put someone at risk under public charge? (from immigrationimpact.com)

Maybe. The public charge rule operates like a wealth test. Immigrants who are laid off due to the coronavirus could have their diminished financial wellbeing counted against them if they apply for a green card in the future or are forced to rely on public benefits to survive.

However, USCIS has indicated that individuals in that situation should provide additional evidence along with their application for a green card. They can explain that the hardship was due to COVID-19.

The agency says it will “take all such evidence into consideration in the totality of the [immigrant’s] circumstances,” indicating that they will likely provide leeway in that event.

Federal relief programs available to immigrants without work authorization (list created by the Hawai’i Appleseed Center)

These programs are available regardless of immigration status:

These programs are NOT available to immigrants without work authorization: