On July 29, 2020, U.S. District Judge George Daniels issued a decision temporarily blocking the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State (DOS) from enforcing the public charge rule during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The US Supreme Court considered the public charge rule earlier this year, but this was pre-COVID. Judge Daniels opined that, because the Supreme Court’s decision did not consider the effect of the pandemic, the changed circumstances warranted a different decision. Judge Daniels evaluated the considerable evidence that was submitted, showing that the rule was deterring foreign nationals from seeking medical treatment for COVID-related illnesses. The judge felt that, as a matter of public health, the rule should not be enforced.
The injunction prevents DHS from requiring applicants and petitioners to comply with the public charge regulation when filing Form I-485 applications for adjustment of status, Form I-129 nonimmigrant worker petitions, and Form I-539 applications to change or extend status.
This may mean that Adjustment of Status applicants do not need to file an I-944, which would be a welcome relief. However, the injunction is temporary and we don't know if USCIS will require I-944s to be filed once the state of emergency ends, so we are not out of the woods yet. We expect that he government will appeal the decision, so the latest decision could be reversed.
As of writing this, USCIS has not provided any guidance on whether to file without the I-944 now,. I I prefer to wait until there is some clarification. Unless a case is time-sensitive, I plan to wait a week or so before filing new Adjustment of Status cases. I don't want to risk filing cases that might get rejected because of the lack of I-944.
Stay tuned for updated information as soon as it is available, and contact Elaine Martin with any questions.
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.