U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently added Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency, to the list of requisite forms for most green card applicants. Applicants prepare Form I-944 to demonstrate financial self-sufficiency and remove the public charge ground for inadmissibility. In other words, it is a required form for most people who file Form I-485 to adjust status to permanent resident.
This article provides an overview for filling out Form I-944. For in-depth, step-by-step guidance to complete the form, use CitizenPath’s service to prepare Form I-944. Upon finishing our do-it-yourself service, you’ll receive the fully prepared Form I-944 and filing instructions customized to your answers. The filing instructions provide detailed directions on supporting documents, how to organize your application, and where to mail it.
RECOMMENDED: Public Charge Rule Explained
Part 1: Information About You
Use this section to provide your basic information. It is fairly self-explanatory. When filling out Form I-944, make sure that the information is consistent with other parts of your application package. For example, confirm that you’re using the same information and spelling as the name address and other information on your I-485 application.
Part 2: Family Status (Your Household)
You must list the members of your household. For the purposes of filling out Form I-944, your household generally does not include housemates such as roommates. Typically, household members are family members living with you, but it can include others. Here is a more precise list of an adult applicant’s household:
- Your spouse, if physically residing with you in the same residence;
- Your children, unmarried and under the age of 21, physically residing with you in the same residence;
- Your other children, unmarried and under the age of 21, not physically residing with you for whom you provide or are required to provide at least 50 percent of the children’s financial support, as evidenced by a child support order or agreement, a custody order or agreement, or any other order or agreement specifying the amount of financial support to be provided by you;
- Any other person(s) (including a spouse not physically residing with you) to whom you provide, or are required to provide, at least 50 percent of the person’s financial support or who are listed as dependents on your federal income tax return; and
- Any person who provides to you at least 50 percent of your financial support, or who lists you as a dependent on his or her federal income tax return.
A child applicant would need to list his or her parents, siblings and those individuals who the parents provide at least 50 percent of their financial support.
Make sure you have totaled all household members to include yourself. USCIS will use this number later to determine if you have sufficient household income for the provided household size.
Part 3: Assets, Resources, and Financial Resources
USCIS will evaluate your and your household members’ assets, resources, and financial status when determining whether you are likely to become a public charge at any time in the future. All else being equal, the more income and assets an applicant’s household has, the more self-sufficient he or she is likely to be. Conversely, an applicant’s lack of assets and income, makes him or her more likely to receive public benefits.
For each household member, including yourself, you’ll need to list details about filing a federal income tax return in the latest year. Of course, not everyone is required to file a federal income tax return with the Internal Revenue Service. This is normal for a child or a newly arrived immigrant who has not worked in America.
You and your household members will also have the opportunity to include any additional income that is not included in a tax return. Examples of nontaxable income include child support, some alimony payments, certain Veteran’s Administration disability benefits and Social Security benefits.
The USCIS office will combine these amounts and compare it to your household size. They will use the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) to make this determination.
If the applicant is able to support him or herself and the applicant’s household members at 125 percent of the FPG for the applicant’s household size, then this is a positive factor in the totality of the circumstances. (Income that is 250 percent or more of the FPG is a very positive factor.) If the applicant is not able to support him or herself and the household members at 125 percent of the FPG for the respective household size, then this is a negative factor. If your income is insufficient, you may be able to use the net value of your assets to offset this difference. The rules can get complicated. If you believe that you need to rely on assets to cover the difference, please work with an immigration attorney.
Assets and Resources
You’ll need to list assets that you want considered. However, you don’t necessarily need to own assets to qualify. A younger applicant with current income typically has less need for assets as compared to an elder applicant who is no longer working.
List only assets that can be converted into cash within 12 months. Provide the value of any asset held in the United States or outside the United States, in U.S. dollars. If you list an asset, you or your household member will also need to provide proof that he/she owns it. Typical assets one would list include checking or savings accounts, real estate, retirement accounts, stocks and bonds, annuities and other current assets.
Be warned: do not include the net value of an automobile unless you or your household member shows that you or your household member has more than one automobile, and at least one automobile is not included as an asset.
Liabilities and Debts
The green card applicant must list liabilities and debts. For most people, this includes mortgages, car loans and credit card debt. Depending on your situation, you may have to include other loan debt, tax debt and personal loans. Your household members’ liabilities are not required when filling out Form I-944.
Credit Report and Score
USCIS will review your U.S. credit report and the credit score submitted with your I-944 declaration, if available, to review your financial status. Many new immigrants do not have any U.S. credit history or credit score. This is normal and won’t disqualify you for a green card.
Before you answer these questions, obtain a free credit report. You are entitled to a free credit report once a year under the Fair Credit Reporting Act from each one of the three credit reporting agencies. You are only required to provide one credit report from any of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you do not have a credit report, use the credit agency’s documentation to demonstrate that you do not have a credit report or score.
RECOMMENDED: Credit-Building Guide for Immigrants
Generally, a FICO credit score of 670 or higher is a positive factor. Below 670 may indicate some negative credit history. But it could also be associated with an individual with a newer credit history. A low credit score may count against you, but isn’t necessarily a disqualifying factor by itself. If you have any negative credit history, you will need to provide an explanation. Negative credit history is weighted as a negative factor in the totality of the circumstances and may include: delinquent accounts, foreclosures, debt collections, charge-offs (delinquent accounts deemed unlikely to be collected), repossession, foreclosure, judgments, tax liens, and/or bankruptcies.
Having private health insurance is a heavily weighted positive factor in favor of a finding that you are not likely to become a public charge. USCIS considers having private health insurance a heavily weighted positive factor if:
- The private health insurance is appropriate for the expected period of admission; and
- You are not receiving subsidies in the form of premium tax credits under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as amended, for this private health insurance.
On the other hand, the lack of private health insurance may be viewed as a negative factor, particularly if you have a significant medical condition that limits your ability to care for yourself, attend school, or work. The combination of no health insurance and a significant medical condition will be weighted as a very negative factor. Consider purchasing health insurance before filling out Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency.
RECOMMENDED: Health Insurance for Immigrants
An applicant’s use of public benefits and even applying for public benefits can be heavily weighted as a negative factor. The good news is that immigrants are rarely eligible for these benefits anyway. Therefore, most applicants will not have ever applied for these public benefits.
Generally, other family members’ use of public benefits should not affect the intending immigrant. However, further analysis from an attorney may be necessary. As part of the public charge inadmissibility determination, USCIS considers both cash and non-cash benefits including:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), commonly known as “welfare” which may be provided under another state name
- Federal, state and local cash assistance, sometimes called “General Assistance”
- Medicaid or other programs supporting long-term institutionalized care, such as in a nursing home or mental health institution
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as “Food Stamps”
- Section 8 housing and rental assistance
- Federal housing subsidies
- Non-emergency Medicaid benefits (with exceptions for children under 21, people with disabilities, pregnant women, and mothers within 60 days after giving birth)
USCIS policy is to consider only the benefits above that you have applied to on or after February 20, 2020. However, if you think that you have ever applied for or received a public benefit listed above, speak to an immigration attorney before submitting Form I-944. An attorney can more carefully analyze your specific situation.
Part 4: Your Education and Skills
USCIS will consider your education, skills and English proficiency when determining whether you are likely to become a public charge at any time in the future. Education and skills are relevant to the public charge inadmissibility determinations because they affect your ability to obtain and maintain stable employment. When filling out Form I-944, put your best foot forward. List all of your credentials.
Generally, any degree or active full-time education is a positive factor. The more education is generally better, if it can be evidence with a degree. Enrollment with only one or two courses generally would not be enough to qualify as a positive factor. When filling out Form I-944, take the time to list each degree or diploma you have earned or are working on.
Occupational skills relevant to employment are also considered positive factors. Skills accompanied with a certification or license carry more weight. Skills and licenses that you’ve maintained over a period of several years characterize you as an experienced worker who can more likely find employment in the future. List any skill if you believe that you can demonstrate it is an earned skill that makes you more valuable in a job.
Your English proficiency is a positive factor. In fact, you only need to demonstrate basic English skills for a positive consideration. Limited to no English language proficiency can be a negative factor in the totality of the circumstances. If you’ve taken an English classes, include them when filling out Form I-944.
An applicant’s lack of literacy and English proficiency can be a negative factor. If you have no English literacy skills, you should consider taking a class. You can find English as a Second Language (ESL) courses on the ESL Directory.
A primary caregiver is a person at least 18 years of age who has significant responsibility for actively caring for and managing the well-being of a child or an elderly, ill, or disabled person in the household. USCIS considers household contributions through primary caretaking responsibilities as a positive factor in the totality of the circumstances.
RECOMMENDED: Serving as a Primary Caregiver
CitizenPath provides simple, affordable, step-by-step guidance through USCIS immigration applications. Individuals, attorneys and non-profits use the service on desktop or mobile device to prepare immigration forms accurately, avoiding costly delays. CitizenPath allows users to try the service for free and provides a 100% money-back guarantee that USCIS will approve the application or petition. We provide support for the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864), Declaration of Self-Sufficiency (Form I-944), Adjustment of Status Application (I-485), and several other immigration packages.