Similar to what the election results have been for both the candidates and their voters, the last few days have also been a rollercoaster ride for foreign nationals and their employers. It all started with a federal District Court vacating the DHS’s public charge rule and ended in an appeals court staying the lower court’s decision of vacation.
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.
On Feb. 24, 2020, Form DS-5540, Public Charge Questionnaire, became a requirement for most people seeking US permanent residence visas from a US embassy or consulate abroad. The purpose of this form is to allow the examining officer to determine whether it is likely that you will become a “public charge” after you arrive in the United States.
The US has a long-standing policy that requires prospective immigrants to prove that they will not become a “public charge” in order to become lawful permanent residents. But what is considered a public charge? You are a public charge if you rely on public benefits. This rule applies both to people seeking visas from overseas through consular processing, and to people seeking adjustment of status through the Department of Homeland Security.
The “public charge” determination has long been a part of the legal immigration process -- immigrants have been required to prove that they will not become a public charge while in the United States. On Feb. 24, 2020, however, the Department of Homeland Security began enforcing the Final Rule, which adds significant obstacles to people seeking to adjust their status to Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) and even to obtain certain nonimmigrant benefits.