By: Maria Schneider

On August 14, 2019 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a new “public charge” rule; this rule will go into effect on October 15, 2019 and directly impacts all individuals applying for a green card.

At this point the Trump Administration has only released a draft version of the new Form I-944. USCIS has not yet released any final forms or documents. Accordingly, we are advising clients to try and file as many cases before October 15 because it is impossible to say with certainty what the new forms will require.

Background

A public charge is someone who is dependent on the government, through benefits programs. The Trump Administration’s new rule changes the standard by the USCIS determines whether a foreign national is likely to become a public charge. Under the previous policy, USCIS examined whether an intending immigrant was primarily dependent on public benefits. Under the new rule, USCIS will examine whether immigrants are likely at any time to become a public charge, using a multi-factor test. USCIS is now required to consider a range of factors when making a determination if the foreign national visa applicant is likely to become a pubic charge. These factors include:
  1. Receipt of a public benefit for more than 12 months in the aggregate within a 36 month period
  2. Age
  3. Health
  4. Family status
  5. Education and skills
  6. Assets, resources, and financial status
New Form I-944

A draft version of the form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency, has been released by the USCIS. In addition to the I-944, new versions of the several other immigration forms required for green card applications, H-1Bs, and H-4s will be updated. The USCIS has not yet published the final version of the I-944 and the other revised forms.

The draft version of the I-944 requires all green card applicants to provide detailed information about his or her household. The applicant’s household includes anyone listed as a dependent on the applicant’s tax return and anyone for whom the applicant provides 50% or more support. The form I-944 asks for:
  • The name, date of birth, and relationship to the applicant of each member of the household
  • The education and occupational skills for an applicant who does not have an approved I-140; for applicants who do have an approved I-140, the applicant must provide the I-140 receipt number
  • The income of the applicant and all household members
  • A list of any assets held by household members that can be converted into cash within 12 months, e.g. checking and savings accounts, stocks and bonds, retirement accounts, etc.
  • A list of any liabilities or debts held by household members, e.g. mortgages, car loans, credit card debt, unpaid taxes, etc.
  • The credit report and credit score of all applicants
  • The terms and type of health insurance policy held by each applicant
  • The application, receipt, or certification of public benefits for each applicant, including enrollment, disenrollment, and withdrawing of public benefits

The adjudicating Officer will review all of the above listed information when making a determination as to whether the green card applicant is likely to become a public charge. At this time, it is unclear if all of the items listed above will be required of all applicants, even when the applicant’s income meets a certain threshold or the applicant has guaranteed employment in the United States because of an approved I-140.

Conclusion

Policy experts forecast that this rule will likely be applied inconsistently, cause fewer legal immigrants to enter the United States, and cause further delays in the processing of immigration applications by the USCIS. MU will send additional information once the immigration forms have been finalized and greater clarity is provided by the USCIS.