What Is Public Charge?
On Aug. 14, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued the final charge rule that dramatically changed the assessment of public charge inadmissibility. This rule is consistent with President Trump’s belief of merit-based immigration. Simply put, the government wishes to prevent anyone who will take certain federal and state benefits from becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident. Self-sufficiency has long been a basic principle of U.S. immigration law since our nation’s earliest immigration statutes. Since the 1800s, Congress has put into statute that aliens are inadmissible to the United States if they are unable to care for themselves without becoming public charges. Since 1996, federal laws have stated that aliens generally must be self-sufficient.
The effective rule date is February 24, 2020, and will make it much more difficult, but not impossible at all, for an applicant for Lawful Permanent Residency to show that he or she is not likely to become a public charge.
When seeking this benefit, the government will determine if, in the future, you may become a public charge, and if the officer determines that you are likely to be a public charge, you will be inadmissible and you will have to overcome this charge before you can apply to become a resident.
Having an experienced attorney represent you in your application for a green card whether in the U.S. or the consulate abroad is essential because we demonstrate through documentation and cover letter all of the reasons why you will not become a public charge.
Which Immigrants Are Subject to the New Public Charge Rules?
With a few exceptions, anyone who is seeking to become a Lawful Permanent Resident either in the United States or outside the U.S. and anyone who is seeking to extend or change their status, and any fiance visa application.
What Factors Are Considered in the Assessment of Public Charge Inadmissibility?
- Family Status
- Assets, Resources, and Financial Status
- Education and Skills
- Affidavit of Support
How Does the Rule Affect Permanent Residents Seeking to Naturalize – to Become a U.S. Citizen?
Lawful Permanent Residents who apply to naturalize (become U.S. citizens) are not subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility. However, if the naturalization applicant traveled outside of the U.S. while an LPR for more than 180 days and is also viewed by the DHS officer as someone who was likely to become a public charge at the time of readmission, the LPR could be subject to a charge of being deportable for being inadmissible at the time of admission. Now more than ever, becoming a U.S. Citizen is strongly encouraged. Contact our team to begin the process of becoming a naturalized citizen.
What Benefits Are Considered Public Charge?
The Form I-944 Declaration of Self Sufficiency contains a list of benefits that MAY make a person deem to be a public charge. These included receiving cash federal and state benefits, certain public housing, HUD housing, and Social Security Income. Most people will not have taken these benefits anyway since you have to be a Lawful Permanent Resident for five years in order to qualify for them. The Form I-944 and the documents and information that you must submit are much broader than these benefits and seek substantial information about the beneficiary (immigrants) history. This information includes:
- Federal Tax Returns for the previous three years;
- Credit Report and Credit Score;
- All debts;
- All Assets;
- Education including the ability to speak English and;
- Health Insurance information or a description of health benefits are paid.
Why Is It Helpful to Have an Attorney Assist Me in the Green Card Process, or Fiance Application or Extending or Changing My Status?
Going it alone at this time is highly discouraged because of the intersection of information that is disclosed and the lines of inquiry that happens at the consulate abroad and at the USCIS interview. The attorney and her team will prepare you for questions relating to public charge grounds of inadmissibility, but more importantly properly prepare the application to present the beneficiary’s equities- why the beneficiary will not likely become a public charge- so that your Lawful Permanent Residency application can be approved. We have decades of combined experience and have already been successful for many of our clients who have already been interviewed at the consulate out of the United States in 2019.
What Is Public Charge Deportability and Is the Immigration Judge Enforcing the New Public Charge Rule?
An individual can be deemed to be removable because they have become a public charge. Lawful Permanent Residents, returning to the United States, can be questioned about what benefits he/she is currently receiving and can inquire about a broad range of issues like, health and health insurance. Therefore, it is important to not depart the U.S. until you consult with an immigration attorney. To date, the Immigration Judges are not enforcing the new Public Charge Regulation. This may change but we must wait to see what the Department of Justice declares.