Update, July 30, 2:25 pm:

On July 29, a New York federal district court judge issued a preliminary nationwide injunction blocking the Trump-Miller Public Charge Rule from taking effect. For details, see my July 30 ilw.com comment on this development. As long as this order remains in effect, Form I-944 will no longer be required. My earlier comment follows.

In my previous comments, I have discussed the background and context of the Trump administration's new I-944 "Declaration of Self-Sufficiency form that must be submitted by all family-based applicants for Adjustment of Status to Permanent Resident (I-485). In this comment, I will begin a discussion of the details and make some observations about strategy in filling out this cumbersome, complicated and for many applicants, intimidating form.

Typically, immigration forms are designed to help USCIS examiners decide whether an applicant is qualified for the requested immigration benefit under applicable law. But Form I-944 is not intended for such a neutral, objective purpose. Instead, like the entire Public Charge rule itself, this form is intended to discourage applicants in order to reduce legal immigration overall by making the application process as difficult and intimidating as possible.

Therefore, the strategy that I am recommending for applicants using this form is different from the one that is normally indicated for filling out immigration forms. In the case of a typical immigration form, an applicant or petitioner should try to provide as much of the requested information as possible. In the case of I-944, however, I am recommending that an applicant should provide the minimum amount of information requested to get the I-944 form accepted for filing. If an immigration examiner thinks that the information or documentation is incomplete, there will always be a chance to provide the missing items - either through an RFE response or at the green card interview.

Trying to gather every single document or item requested in the I-944 form to make sure that nothing is left out can cause long delays in filing the I-485 application and in receiving what may is often urgently needed work permission, not to mention the green card itself. Indeed, causing these long delays is without question one of the main purposes of the I-944 form.

And this brings me to my main assumption about this form - I regard it as most likely to be in use for a short period of time only. If a new president takes office on January 20, 2021, as now appears to be a realistic possibility, I doubt whether this form will still be in use on January 21, the following day. Even if the current president wins re-election, it may be doubtful whether this form could survive a serious court challenge. To borrow a phrase from the 2018 Supreme Courts Trump v. Hawaii Muslim Ban decision, Form I-944 "exudes" illegality as being arbitrary and capricious, not to mention discrimination and racial "animus".

With the above by way of introduction, I will now turn to a detailed review of Form I-944. Beginning on page 3 (in Part 3) the form asks the applicant to show his or her income based on the latest federal income tax filing. If you (the green card applicant) are up to date on your federal income tax filings, this should present no problem, but many green card applicants, such as spouses of US citizen sponsors, may have been working without work permission and may not have filed US taxes at all.

Preparing a tax return in order to satisfy the above requirement may be time consuming and expensive. On the other hand, if no tax return has been filed, the I-944 requires the applicant to provide an explanation. This is also intimidating and can cause long delay. It is also one example of why the advice of an experienced, knowledgeable immigration lawyer (and possibly also a CPA or other tax professional) can be crucial in dealing with this issue.

The next item, beginning on page 6 of the form asks for comprehensive information and documentation of all of the applicant's assets and liabilities, as well as that of the sponsoring spouse or other household member. The requirement includes 12 months of bank statements and full documentation of any real or personal property owned, including proof of value. A recent credit score, which may be impossible to obtain for someone who only recently entered the US, is also required.

It is as if someone were applying for a mortgage or a bank loan rather than a green card. Again the obvious purpose is delay and intimidation, unrelated to the green card requirements, which are based on family relationships, not financial expertise. In effect, this form is imposing a long list of green card document and paperwork requirements to apply for a green card which are found nowhere in the statute.

And this is only the beginning, as I will show in my next comment on this topic.

Roger Algase
Attorney at Law
Harvard Law School LL.B
Harvard College A.B.