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Important Changes to the Public Charge Rule

In this post, Berardi Immigration Law attorney Zach Ahlstrom talks about the public charge rule changes that went into effect on February 24, 2020. Please note that this blog posts covers the same content as the video below.

The U.S. immigration system is grounded in the concept of self-sufficiency. It has long been understood that aliens coming to the United States are expected to rely on their own capabilities and should not depend on public resources to meet their needs. In recognition of this principle, Congress provided a specific ground of inadmissibility for aliens likely to become a public charge. In its current form, Section 212(a)(4) of the INA  states that “Any alien who at the time of application for admission or adjustment of status, is likely at any time to become a public charge is inadmissible. 

The new rules do not change this concept. Rather, the new public charge rules alter the definition of both public charge and public benefits and also change the standard that the Department of Homeland Security uses when determining whether an alien is likely to become a “public charge” at any time in the future.

Under the new rule, inadmissibility is determined by looking at a specific set of factors, such as age, health, and financial resources, in the totality of the circumstances. This is not a “bright-line” test and a determination as to whether or not an alien is inadmissible is discretionary. U.S. immigration officials will be making a decision based on the specific facts of each and every case. 

So, what does this mean in practice? Well, the government has issued new forms to assist immigration officials in making a public charge determination. For individuals applying for adjustment of status, Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency is now required. For individuals applying for an immigrant visa abroad, a DS-5540 public charge questionnaire will now need to be completed and provided to the consulate or embassy conducting your immigrant visa interview.

In addition, to the new forms, applicants for admission or adjustment of status are also now required to provide more detail and documentation concerning both their financial and physical health. This documentation includes a credit report, information about your health insurance and any medical conditions you may have, information about any public benefits you may have received in the past, and documentation illustrating your income, assets, and liabilities. 

In the end, the new public charge rules have added another layer of complexity to the immigration process. If you have any question about how this might impact you and your current immigration needs, please contact our office to speak with one of our knowledgeable attorneys