As of February 24, 2020, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires new forms and additional documents for most types of immigration cases in order to address the revised Public Charge Rule.  We have developed a set of frequently of asked questions that will help you understand how this recent change could impact your case.   This letter will explain these changes and how it may affect your case.

What Is The Public Charge Rule?

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), an individual could be denied a visa to the U.S. or a green card if the U.S. Government believes that he or she is likely to require government assistance (i.e., a public charge).

How Has The Rule Changed?

In the past, the U.S. Government would only consider the receipt of cash assistance or long-term institutionalization at the Government’s expense to trigger a finding that an individual was ineligible for a visa or permanent residence.

Under the new rule, USCIS will consider an applicant a public charge if he or she is likely to require certain benefit programs for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.

What Types Of Benefits Could Trigger A Public Charge Finding?

These benefits include: Supplemental Security Income (SSI); Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF); State or local general relief or general assistance; Institutionalization for long-term care; Medicaid[1]; Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps); Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program; Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance; and, Public Housing.

How Will USCIS Decide Whether I Am Likely To Become A Public Charge?

USCIS will be looking at a multitude of factors to determine if someone is more likely than not to go on one of these benefits programs in the future including: age; health; employment history; education; use of public benefits in the past; fee waiver applications; bankruptcy; and family size.

How Will USCIS Know Whether I Will Require Government Benefits?

Both the USCIS and U.S. Consulates abroad are introducing new forms for applicants for visas and permanent residents to complete as part of the decision-making process. These forms will require applicants to provide extensive information and documentation regarding their finances.   Additionally, USCIS is requiring employers who are seeking extensions or changes of nonimigrant status for foreign national employees to disclose whether the beneficiary received certain government benefits while in non-immigrant status in this country.

What Does This Mean for Your Case?

As part of proper preparation for an immigration case, you may be asked to provide additional supporting documents and evidence by an attorney or paralegal. This documentation may include things like:

  • Financial income and assets, with proof of ownership and value
  • Credit reports for the United States, or proof no credit history
  • Tax transcripts from the IRS for anyone in the household
  • Health conditions (and explanation of how recovery or treatment will be covered)
  • Health insurance
  • Child support information
  • Skills assessment and English language proficiency proof
  • History of receipt of public benefits

You may also be asked to fill in new questionnaires and to review new required forms, including the I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency.

How Will This Change Impact The Review Of My Case?

It is estimated that collecting, assessing, and reviewing all of these collected documents and new forms will add an additional 6-10 hours of legal work to your case. For this reason, there may be some delays in filing and we may need to assess additional fees if there is a likely public charge issue. We will remain mindful of visa and work authorization expirations, as well as travel schedules, but we ask for some flexibility and patience as our firm adjusts to these new changes.

Additionally, USCIS examiners and Consular officers will likely need time to adapt to these new rules, and they could require more time to review submissions or request additional documentation in order to make a decision regarding a foreign national’s eligibility for visas, changes/extension of status, or permanent residence.

Please contact Maggio Kattar should you have additional questions or concerns about prior receipt of government assistance.

[1] There are three important exceptions to the receipt of Medicaid benefits: (1) by those who are under 21; (2) by those who are pregnant; or (3) for emergency medical services. There is a fourth exception, for school-based services (including services provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), but this overlaps with the exception for children under 21.