As a result of the changes to the analysis of Public Charge for immigration purposes, USCIS has finally published the new forms. The changes take effect for cases filed starting on October 15 2019, but the government did not publish the required forms until late on October 9.
Starting on October 15, 2019, only the recent editions of the following forms will be accepted by USCIS:
The latest editions of these forms all have new questions related to the public charge grounds of inadmissibility.
In addition to the changed forms. most Adjustment of Status applicants will need to include a new Form I-944 with the applications. The following categories are exempt from the public charge requirements and therefore do not need to file the I-944:
For everyone other than these exempt categories, the following rules apply to Adjustmnent of Status applicants:
You must file an I-944 and an I-864 (Affidavit of Support) if you are an
You file just an I-944 if you are a
The public charge rules are complex and the new Form I-944 is very detailed and requests extensive information about the applicant's income, tax filings, language and other skills, assets, receipt of public benefits, etc. More information on the public charge rule is in this YouTube video and a demonstration of the Form I-944 is in this video.
We expect that there will be a lot of developments in this area in the next few weeks and months, especially regarding lawsuits that are trying to stop the riles and forms taking effect. Please check back for information, and subscribe to my YouTube channel for the most recent updates.
Call +1-214-329-4148 if you would like to discuss the impact of the new rules on your specific case.
The US Department of State (DOS) has published instructions for the next round of the Diversity Visa (DV) lottery here.
The online entry registration period for the DV-2021 lottery is 12:00 pm (ET) on October 2, 2019, and will continue until 12:00 pm (ET) on November 5, 2019..
What is the Diversity Visa program?
Congress established the diversity visa program through the Immigration Act of 1990 in an effort to promote immigration from countries underrepresented in the United States. In the DOS's own words:
DVs are intended to provide an immigration opportunity for persons who are not from “high admission” countries. U.S. law defines “high admission countries” as those from which a total of 50,000 persons in the Family-Sponsored and Employment-Based visa categories immigrated to the United States during the previous five years. Each year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) counts the family and employment immigrant admission and adjustment of status numbers for the previous five years to identify the countries that are considered “high admission” and whose natives will therefore be ineligible for the annual Diversity Visa program.
What is the screening process?
Diversity visa applicants undergo the same screening process as all intending permanent residents. This includes a background (criminal) and medical check and all are interviewed by a US government official before approval.
In addition, every DV entrant must have at least a high school education or its equivalent or have two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience.
President Trump has alleged that DV holders are "the worst of the worst." In 2017, he stated "[t]hey give us their worst people, put them in a bin... they're picking the worst of the worst..." (link) This is a gross mischaracterization of the DV program - and insulting to DV entrants like me. As mentioned, DV holders are screened before approval. The US government, not the DV holders' governments, decides who gets approved. Finally, DV holders apply voluntarily, they are not sent by anyone.
What countries are eligible?
It is easier to list the countries that are NOT eligible. For DV-2021, natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply (because more than 50,000 natives of these countries immigrated to the United States in the previous five years):
Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.
People born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan are eligible.
Even if you were not born in one of the eligible countries, you might be able to claim that country if (a) your spouse is from that country, or (b) one of your parents was born in an eligible country. For full details of how this works, see the FAQs in the instruction document linked.
Do I need a lawyer to help?
No, you do not need a lawyer to help with the application. Please be very wary of anyone who suggests that they can influence your chances of success, or states that your chances are better if they "help" with the application. If you believe that someone is making such a false claim, please contact this resource:
As a "winner" of the lottery myself, 25 years ago, I encourage everyone who is eligible to apply as early as possible. The odds may be long -- but they are even longer if you don't apply. Good luck!
The American Immigration Lawyers Association is promoting Citizenship Day, where eligible permanent residents can get hep in completing naturalization applications.. In the AILA document (available here) the organization states that the journey to naturalize will include a series of steps.
It is advisable to seek the help of an immigration attorney in moving forward with your Naturalization process. An attorney can help you with many of the steps:
On September 14, 2019, AILA, in partnership with NALEO Educational Fund, will host naturalization workshops across the country that offer free or low-cost assistance to legal permanent residents eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. A participant attending an AILA Citizenship Day workshop will get the help of an attorney.
See here for a list of workshops and locations. Not all workshops are occurring on September 14.
For information on becoming a US citizen, or other immigration questions, contact Elaine Martin. See also our new YouTube channel for lots of useful short videos on immigration.
On August 14, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security posted the Final Rule on the new provisions related to public charge. The new rule will apply many people, whether they are filing for an immigration benefit based on employment or a family relationship.
We are still analyzing the rule, which was just published today, so please check back for updates.
When does the rule take effect?
October 15, 2019. The new definition of public charge will not apply to cases that were filed before that date. In addition, DHS will not penalize people who received benefits before October 15
What is a “public charge”?
The term “likely at any time to become a public charge,” has always been is a ground of inadmissibility (a reason to deny an immigration benefit) in the Immigration and nationality Act (INA). Up to now, the term was limited to people who were primarily dependent on cash benefits or in government-funded, long-term institutional care. The type of benefits were limited to Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and state general relief or general assistance, as well as a Medicaid program that covers the institutionalization mentioned above.
What applications are affected by the law?
The “public charge” rule applies to:
How does the new rule change the “public charge” definition?
The new rule makes some very important changes to the analysis of “public charge.”
1. DHS may now consider that someone is a public charge if they are “more likely than not” to receive the listed benefits for more than 12 months total within any 36-month period. A person who gets two benefits in one month is considered to have used two months of benefits. Chillingly, the FAQs on USCIS web page expand this, saying that “…because a public charge inadmissibility determination is prospective in nature, in the totality of the circumstances, any duration (and amount) of public benefits received may be considered in the totality of the circumstances.”
2. DHS has expanded the list of benefits that could disqualify a person. In addition to the benefits already counted, DHS will consider:
Benefits that will not be counted are:
Benefits received by the applicant’s U.S. citizens children or other family members are not considered unless the foreign national is also listed as a recipient.
3. The rule gives officers broad discretion to consider additional factors in determining whether a foreign national is likely to become a public charge. These factors include age, health, family status, assets/resources/financial status, and education/skills. Other factors that DHS will consider include the foreign national’s prospective immigration status and expected period of stay (immigrant or non-immigrant).
How can these discretionary factors be viewed?
The following factors will generally weigh heavily in favor of a finding that a foreign national is likely at any time to become a public charge:
The following factors would weigh heavily against a finding that a foreign national is likely to become a public charge:
Is anyone exempt from the rule?
Yes. The public charge rule does not apply to:
What if I am deemed to be likely to be a “public charge”?
Foreign nationals may be able to post a public charge bond of at least $8,100 to avoid a public charge determination. The bond may be cancelled only upon the immigrant’s death, permanent departure, five years as a lawful permanent resident, or naturalization. The bond will be considered breached if the immigrant receives any of the cash or non-cash programs identified above for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.
The draft bond form I-945 is here and instructions are here.
I filed an Affidavit of Support – doesn’t that help?
It does help. It is one of many factors that DHS will consider. The likelihood that the sponsor on the I-864 will really be able to support the foreign national is important.
Does Obamacare count as a benefit?
Yes and no. DHS says that it won’t consider subsidies under the Affordable Care Act as public benefits, BUT private health insurance is one of the “heavily-weighted positive factors.” In other words, you won’t be penalized for using Obamacare subsidies, but it you had health insurance without them, it would be better.
Are there any new forms?
All applicants for Adjustment of Status (employment and family cases) will need to complete a Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Suffiency. USCIS has discretion to ask non-immigrant beneficiaries to also complete this where necessary.
The Form I-944 collects information such as age; health; family status; assets, resources and financial status; and education and skills. DHS estimates that it will take applicants 4.5 hours to complete this.
Draft Form I-944
Form 944 instructions
What should I do now?
If you are considering filing any petition or application with immigration, do it now, before October 15. If you can’t file before October 15, analyze any benefits that you are receiving to see if they are listed above.
For any questions about the new rule, how it might affect you, and how you can file applications before the rule takes effect, please contact immigration attorney Elaine Martin.
Elaine Martin has been practising US and global immigration law since 1997. She is an immigrant herself (from Ireland), so has a special understanding of the legal and emotional challenges involved in relocating to a new country.