USCIS Reimplements “Public Charge” Rule

By: Geoffrey J. Lamoureux

On September 11, 2020, a federal appeals court ruled that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) – a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, could reimplement on a nationwide scale its final rule regarding immigrants considered likely at any time to become a “public charge.”

A public charge is a person primarily dependent on the government for subsistence. USCIS will apply its final rule to applications postmarked on or after February 24, 2020, but it will not re-adjudicate applications it approved between July 29, 2020 and September 10, 2020 – a time during which a court injunction had temporarily prevented USCIS from enforcing the final rule.

Affected applicants for adjustment of status (“AOS” or green card), must now include Form I-944 “Declaration of Self-Sufficiency” with their AOS applications. USCIS believes that by reviewing the contents of Form I-944 and its supporting documents, it will be able to make effective determinations about whether an intending immigrant is likely at any time to become a public charge. If someone is determined to be likely to become a public charge, he or she would be found “inadmissible,” and may accordingly be unable to immigrate to the United States. USCIS will also apply its final rule to nonimmigrant visas, including applications to extend stay or change status.

Due to the above, applicants for immigration benefits are cautioned to submit professionally-prepared, well-documented applications, to minimize any chance of denial.