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COFA, Public Charge

The U.S. has international treaty agreements with the Freely Associated States of the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia, commonly known as the Compacts of Free Association (COFA). Citizens of Palau, the Marshall Islands, and Micronesia are eligible to freely enter and exit, and reside indefinitely, in the U.S. (and U.S. Pacific jurisdictions, including Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands). Under the COFA, such Freely Associated States (FAS) citizens do not require visas to enter the U.S., and are given a unique “non-immigrant” immigration status that does not have any expiration date. FAS citizens residing in the U.S. are authorized to work in the U.S. There are over 61,000 FAS citizens currently residing in the U.S. and its associated Pacific jurisdictions.

Once in the U.S., FAS citizens are generally NOT eligible for most federal, state, and local government benefits. For example, FAS citizens are NOT eligible for Medicaid, Medicare, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). One of the few benefits they are eligible for is federal housing assistance.