Public charge refers to a person’s use of public benefits and becoming reliant on the government for support. Under the Trump administration, the U.S. government has reinterpreted immigration law to create a new public charge rule. The administration wants to make sure that immigrants coming to the United States are generally self-sufficient and will not rely on public resources for support.
How Public Charge is Determined
Under this more restrictive interpretation of law, the new final rule defines public charge as an individual who receives one or more public benefits for more than 12 months, in total, within any 36-month period. The rule considers the following to be public benefits:
- Supplemental Security Income;
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families;
- Any federal, state, local, or tribal cash benefit programs for income maintenance (often called general assistance in the state context, but which may exist under other names);
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps);
- Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program;
- Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation);
- Public Housing (under the Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C. 1437 et seq.); and
- Federally funded Medicaid (with certain exclusions).
Under the final rule, “likely at any time to become a public charge” means more likely than not at any time in the future to become a public charge. In other words, USCIS will determine if an applicant is more likely than not at any time in the future to receive one or more of the public benefits (listed above) for more than 12 months, in total, within any 36-month period.
To determine if an applicant is likely to become a public charge at any time in the future, USCIS officers will look at a variety of factors. A USCIS officer will consider an applicant’s:
- Family status
- Assets, resources, and financial status
- Education and skills
- Prospective immigration status
- Expected period of admission
- Sufficient Affidavit of Support (Form I-864)
For a more detailed look at these factors and how they affect you, read Public Charge Rule Explained.
How Public Charge Affects Immigrants
Most new immigrants who enter the United States are subject to this public charge rule. Although there are exemptions to public charge, most intending immigrants must remove this obstacle to become permanent residents (green card holders). For those that are subject to public charge, this means that they must submit Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency and the requisite supporting documents.
This new form and determining the correct supporting documents can be overwhelming. CitizenPath’s preparation service was designed by immigration attorneys as an affordable solution to this challenge. Our self-directed software will help you prepare the Form I-944 correctly and generate a customized set of filing instructions. The instructions will provide an itemized list of documents you must submit with Form I-944. Try it here >>