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On Monday, February 24th United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will implement new changes to the the Public Charge Grounds final rule, which will apply only to applications and petitions postmarked on or after the date of implementation. The Public Charge Grounds final rule will not immediately go into effect in Illinois, due to an injunction. USCIS will provide additional public guidance regarding that injunction. This news comes after a Supreme Court ruling that lifted a nationwide injunction blocking the implementation of this rule.

The Public Charge Grounds rule applies to applicants for admission, aliens seeking to adjust their status to lawful permanent residents in the U.S., as well as aliens within the U.S. who maintain a nonimmigrant visa and seek to extend the duration of their stay within the same classification, or to change their status to a different nonimmigrant classification.

USCIS defines “public charge” as an individual who is likely to become “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for maintenance, or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.”

USCIS cites self-sufficiency as being a basic principle of U.S. immigration law, and states that since the 1800s, Congress has had the power to deem individuals as inadmissible to the U.S. if they are unable to “care for themselves without becoming public charge.”

“Since 1996 federal laws have stated that aliens generally must be self-sufficient.”

This final rule provides guidance on how to determine if foreign nationals applying for admission or adjustment of status are likely to become a public charge.

Notable changes include the definition of public charge. Regulations specify a “public charge” as an individual who has received public benefits for more than a twelve-month aggregate total within any 36-month period. Under this regulation, receiving multiple benefits within the same month will be considered as multiple months, meaning that if an individual is the benefactor of two benefits within the same month, that period will be considered as two months.

USCIS has additionally added more benefits to the official list considered as “public benefits,” which include the following

  • Supplemental Security Income [SSI, administered through Social Security]
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [TANF]
  • Cash Support for Income Maintenance* [including SSI, TANF, and other state and local programs, often called “general assistance” programs]
  • Non-Emergency Medicaid [including Medi-Cal]**
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP, Food Stamps, or Cal-Fresh]
  • Housing Assistance (Public Housing or Section 8 Housing Vouchers and Rental Assistance)
  • Benefits related to institutionalization for long-term care at government expense

* Included under current policy as well;

** Exception for coverage of children under 21, pregnant women (including 60 days post-partum)

USCIS officers will make a determination for each applying foreign national based on their specific circumstances. Under these new regulations, USCIS allows for immigration officers to take into consideration and prioritize certain aspects of an applicant’s life and situation when making a determination. These aspects could include:

  • Age
  • Health
  • Family size
  • Skills
  • Financial status

USCIS will additionally require applicants to submit Form I-944, or a Declaration of Self-Sufficiency, in addition to an Affidavit of Support for Adjustment of status and will allow applicants to post a public charge bond if otherwise admissible.

Given the nature of this rule, we are paying close attention to how this regulation will be administered, and will provide updates as they become available.

If you have any questions as to how the Public Charge Rule will affect your visa petition, or plans to work and live in the United States, and are not a current client, please schedule a consultation with our team. If you are a current client, please reach out to your D’Alessio Law Group professional.

The information should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. The responses and information are intended to be general and should not be relied upon for any specific situation. For legal advice, consult an experienced immigration attorney.

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