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USCIS Implements New Public Charge Rule, Effective February 24, 2020

On February 24, 2020, the Final Rule (new policy guidelines) on Inadmissibility on Public Charge grounds became effective nationwide. Therefore, applications filed after February 24, 2020, are subject to the new rule, which is briefly outlined below.

Before this change, the USCIS defined “public charge” to mean a person who is “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.” However, under the Final Rule, the USCIS will determine if a person is “likely at any time to become a public charge” and therefore inadmissible to the U.S. (or unable to obtain Permanent Residence or “Greencard”).  Under the new rule, the USCIS will determine if a person is more likely than not to receive any of nine benefits for more than total of 12 months in any 36-month period.

In the past, the USCIS focused on the petitioner or sponsor’s income, but under the Final Rule the USCIS will focus on the applicant’s future earning potential based on factors such the applicant’s financial status, age, health, family status, education, skills, etc.  Under this Final Rule, the USCIS defines these terms in ways that may make it difficult for low-skilled, low-income, elderly, or disabled applicants to overcome the public charge scrutiny. No single factor makes an applicant inadmissible based on the public charge ground, but the determination that is based on the totality of the applicant’s circumstances and by weighing all the factors that are relevant to the applicant’s case.

The Final Rule allows an applicant, who might be deemed to be a public charge by the USCIS, to post a bond.

The Public Benefits Under the Final Rule:

The USCIS will consider the following categories of benefits listed under the Final Rule for Public Charge inquiry.  Therefore, a person who has received or is receiving any of the following benefits on or after February 24, 2020, will be considered for public charge inquiry.

  1. Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
  2. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families;
  3. Any federal, state, local, or tribal cash benefit programs for income maintenance (often called general assistance in the state context, but which may exist under other names);
  4. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly called “Food Stamps”;
  5. Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program;
  6. Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation);
  7. Public Housing under the Housing Act of 1937; and
  8. Federally funded Medicaid (not including state-only funded Medicaid; emergency services; school-based benefits used by children (under 21 years of age); or use by immigrants during pregnancy and up to 60 days after).

The Following Benefits are Not Considered for Public Charge Determination:

  • Emergency medical assistance;
  • Disaster relief;
  • National school lunch programs;
  • The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children;
  • The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP);
  • Subsidies for foster care and adoption;
  • Government-subsidized student and mortgage loans;
  • Energy assistance;
  • Food pantries and homeless shelters; and
  • Head Start.

Public Charge Rule Applies To:

The Final Rule applies to anyone who applies for admission to the U.S. unless they fall under one of the exemptions. The Final Rule most impacts those who are filing applications for adjustment of status (applications for Greencards) in the U.S.  Now, the applicants filing application for adjustment of status must provide lot more personal information and documentation.

Although non-immigrants applying for an extension or change of status are not impacted in the same way as immigrants, the non-immigrants must still satisfy the new public charge condition to be eligible for change or extension of status.

The Final Rule also applies to current Permanent Residents (Greencard holders) but only to those who return to the U.S. after spending more than 180 days outside the U.S.

Exemptions from Public Charge Rule:

The following people are exempted from the Public Charge rule:

  • VAWA self-petitioner;
  • Special Immigrant Juvenile;
  • Asylees and Refugees;
  • U Non-immigrant victim of qualifying criminal activity;
  • T Non-immigrant victim of human trafficking
  • Applicants under Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA);
  • Applicants under the Cuban Adjustment Act; and
  • Few other categories of immigrants.

The Public Charge Rule does not apply to a Permanent Resident applying for Naturalization (Citizenship).

Effect on Adjustment of Status (“Greencard”) Applications:

Most applicants filing for Adjustment of Status must now also file a new form- Declaration of Self-Sufficiency (I-944). Each family member must file their own I-944.  This form collects a great deal of information about the applicant’s and their household members’ financial and other circumstances, such as income and assets, credit history, liabilities and debts, health insurance, education level, employment history, and receipt of past and present public benefits, etc.

Under the Final Rule, USCIS will heavily weigh an income of at least 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines for household size as a positive factor (e.g., annual income of $31,905 for one person or $43,100 for family of two, or $65,500 for a family of four).

Effect on Non-immigrants:

Non-immigrants applying for change of status or extension of status, must disclose if they have received or are certified to receive certain public benefits. The USCIS will only consider the benefits received on or after February 24, 2020, in the non-immigrant applicant’s public charge inquiry.

If you have any questions about this or other immigration needs, contact us. We are available for free consultation, please call us at 801-269-9541 or call or text us 801-577-1988 (cell) or 801-637-5556 (cell) or contact us online.

 

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