On Feb. 24, 2020, the USCIS added yet another form to the already extensive paperwork you need to adjust your status to lawful permanent resident — Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency. The purpose of the form is to prove that you will not become a “public charge” (dependent on public benefits) while in the United States.
Following are some section by section tips on how to complete this form in an effective possible manner.
Part 1: Information About You
Name and address: Give your full legal name, exactly as it appears on your passport. Provide your residential address. The address you provide, here and elsewhere in your application, is where the USCIS will be mailing your green card if your application is successful.
Alien Registration Number: Provide your eight- or nine-digit alien registration number, issued to you by the USCIS, if you have one. If you have never applied for law permanent residence before and have never been in removal proceedings before, you might not have one.
USCIS Online Account Number: You might not have this if you’ve never filed certain types of applications with the USCIS. If you don’t, leave it blank.
Part 2: Family Status
The purpose of this section is to help the officer determine the extent of your financial burdens.
Your household: Provide the requested information about yourself and everyone else in your household. Your household includes:
- Your spouse, if you live together;
- Your unmarried children under 21 if they live with you;
- Anyone for whom you provide (or are required to provide under court order) at least 50 percent financial support even if you don’t live with them;
- Anyone you claim as a dependent on your federal income tax return;
- Anyone who provides at least 50 percent of your financial support; and
- Anyone who lists you as a dependent on their federal income tax return.
If you are still a child, the foregoing list will be different.
Part 3: Your and Your Household Members’ Assets, Resources, and Financial Status
Income: Provide your household’s total income before taxes.
Tax returns: Declare whether you and your household members filed tax returns. If you didn’t, or if any other income-earning member didn’t, you might be caught in the horns of a dilemma — if you were not required to file a tax return because your income was too low, you might be considered a high risk to become a public charge. If your income was high enough to require you to file a tax return but you didn’t file one, you broke the law. It would be best to resolve such as situation, even by filing a late return, before you complete Form I-944.
If you underreported your income on your tax return, this could come back to haunt you now. The USCIS will expect your household to have income of at least 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, depending on the size of your household and the cost of living in the area where you reside. Of course, the higher your income, the better your chances of overcoming the public charge barrier.
Amounts earned from illegal activity: Reporting such amounts will never benefit your application.
Receipt of need-based cash benefits: These types of benefits (such as SSI or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) count as public benefits. They will not help your case, although a modest amount of public benefits will not automatically disqualify you. If you have received such benefits, however, you have to list them.
Other income: List any income that does not appear in your tax return — child support payments, for example.
Assets: List the entire assets of your household including items such as a family home, a 401(k) account, a car, etc. Don’t miss anything, because the more you report, the better your chances of overcoming the public charge barrier will be. To the extent that you can, provide an objective valuation of these assets — a real estate appraisal, for example. Add as much documentation as you can.
Debts: You will need to list all of your debts including mortgages, credit card debts, etc., with as much documentation as you can provide. The USCIS will subtract your debts from your assets and income to determine your financial viability.
Credit rating: You will need to provide your credit score and information about any previous bankruptcies. You will also need to provide your credit report. If you have the time, you might consider taking some time to clean up your credit report before you file Form I-944.
Health insurance: You are going to need some form of health insurance before you file Form I-944, together with documentary evidence of it; otherwise you will be at a great disadvantage. If you are employed, your employer may be providing you with health insurance. The use of most forms of Medicaid will be held against you.
Questions 19-21 are designed to determine whether you are exempt from the public charge rule. If you are, you don’t need to worry about overcoming the public charge barrier.
Whether you have applied for public benefits: Applying for public benefits can be held against you, even if you were turned down.
Requesting a fee waiver on a previous immigration application can be held against you.
Part 4: Your Education and Skills
Answer yes to Question 1 only if your immigration is based on employment (you cannot answer “yes” if your immigration is based on family relationship, for example).
Educational attainment and occupational skills: Don’t forget anything, including professional certifications, because proving your employability can go a long way in helping you overcome the public charge barrier.
Part 5. Declarant’s Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature
You must swear that the information you provided in Form I-944 is true to the best of your knowledge and belief. Once you sign here, deliberately providing false or misleading information is a crime.
Part 8. Signature at Interview
Don’t sign this until your USCIS interview.