Q: What is this Form I-944 Affidavit of Self Sufficiency?
A: The Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds final rule will go into effect on 24th, February 2020. The rule requires applicants for adjustment of status who are subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility to report certain information related to public benefits, to be completed on Form I-944 Affidavit of Self-Sufficiency. The instructions for the Form I-944 Affidavit of Self Sufficiency states that the form is used to determine whether one is inadmissible to the United States under Section 212(a)(4) because there is “a likelihood that you will become a public charge at any time in the future”. The instructions for Form I-944 as published by USCIS requires the applicant to report and submit information about whether the alien applied for, was certified or approved to receive, or received certain non-cash public benefits on or after Oct. 15, 2019. However, due to litigation-related delays in the final rule’s implementation, USCIS is applying this requirement as though it refers to Feb. 24, 2020, rather than Oct. 15, 2019. In other words, applicants subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility need not report the application, certification or approval to receive, or receipt of certain non-cash public benefits on the Form I-944 before Feb. 24, 2020. USCIS instructs that all references to Oct. 15, 2019, to now refer to Feb. 24, 2020. This Form I-944 is an 18 page document which requires the applicant to provide details of their assets, resources, financial status, financial status of their household members, U.S Credit Report and credit score, information about prior bankruptcy filings, health insurance details, past and present use of public benefits, education and occupational skills and English language abilities.
Q: What is the public charge rule?
A: This rule essentially gives immigration officer more powers to deny permanent residence to green card applicants if they are deemed a public charge. The rule expands the types of benefits used to include using food stamps (SNAP), certain federally funded Medicaid benefits, and quite a number of forms of government subsidized housing, including Section 8 Housing vouchers, nonemergency Medical benefits (with the exceptions for children under 21, people with disabilities, pregnant women and mothers within 60 days after giving birth). A public charge denial would occur if the applicant received one or more of these designated benefits for more than 12 months in aggregate within any 36-month period. Receipt of three different qualifying benefits in one month will count as three months’ worth of benefits. In addition, and more troubling is the immigration officer also needs to determine if the prospective immigrant is more likely than not in the future to use benefits taking into account their financial status, age, educational level and skills, their health, how many dependents they have, what kind of debts they have and their English Language proficiency. Also, there is a requirement that the adjustment applicant must be able to show his or her household income (or asset equivalent) is at least 125 percent (or 100 percent is you are on active duty, other than in training, in the S.S Armed Forces) of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. This could pose a problem for many intending applicants especially those from the lower income brackets and those who have many household members.
Q: When will this rule actually take effect? Who does it affect?
The rule will take effect for all applicable adjustment of status applications filed on February 24th, 2020 and thereafter. Those applications postmarked before February 24th, 2020 will be adjudicated under the policy in place before the new rule. The rule will affect those who are applying for permanent residence or green cards in the United States through a process known as adjustment of status. This applies to both family-based and employment-based immigrants. Some individuals are exempt from the public charge test, such as asylees, refugees, applicants adjusting status as battered spouse (VAWA) and victims of qualifying criminal activity (U nonimmigrant visas) under section 245(m). The detailed list of individuals exempted from the I-944 requirement can be found on the instructions for this Form.
Q: I plan to file for adjustment of status next month in March 2020. My husband, the US Citizen sponsor is employed and earns enough to provide the Affidavit of Support on Form I-864. Am I still required for file Form I-944 Declaration of Self Sufficiency? I do not understand why it is necessary for me to complete this Form I-944 if my spouse is already going to sponsor me.
A: Yes, you will be required to file with your adjustment application, the Form I-944 Affidavit of Self Sufficiency. This is the new policy imposed by our current administration which requires that the applicant for adjustment of status demonstrate that he or she will not likely be a public charge, despite the Affidavit of Support by the sponsor.
Q: Is there a fee to file this Form? Do you recommend that a lawyer assist in the preparation of this Form I-944 Affidavit of Self-Sufficiency?
A: There is no fee. Just file the Form along with the I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status. Yes, in view of the extensive information and documentation needed to complete the Form I-944, I do recommend that applicants seek the professional assistance of an Immigration Attorney.
Any advice provided in this article is general in nature and not intended to constitute legal advice for any specific case. Please consult with an immigration lawyer about the specific circumstances of your case.
Sharlene Sharmila Richards is a licensed Immigration Lawyer practicing in Houston, Texas. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She was admitted to the New York State Bar in 2000 and is a member of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and a member of the US Supreme Court. If you require advice or assistance, you may contact her at telephone number 713-623-8088 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.