Public Charge Rule Explained

Form I-944 Declaration of Self-Sufficiency

Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency

USCIS no longer requires Form I-944

In 2019, the Trump administration introduced a stricter, more onerous version of the public charge rule. This resulted in a new, requisite form to be submitted with most green card applications. Known as Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency, the requirement forced intending immigrants to submit substantial information about finances, education, skills and other details. From approximately February 24, 2020 through March 8, 2021, this version of the public charge rule was in effect.

The Biden administration facilitated the return to the "old" public charge rule that was already in place prior to the Trump administration's changes. On or after March 9, 2021, applicants should not provide Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency, or any evidence or documentation required on that form with their Form I-485.

Although USCIS has discontinued use of this harsh version of the public charge rule, there continues to be a public charge ground of inadmissibility for new immigrants. If an individual is inadmissible, admission to the United States or adjustment of status is not granted. Therefore, most green card applicants must continue to file Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, to remove this ground of inadmissibility.

Form I-864, Affidavit of Support

Most all family-based adjustment of status applications will require the filing of Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. The individual who petitioned the green card applicant must submit Form I-864 and act as a financial sponsor. However, other household members and/or a joint sponsor can join the petitioning sponsor to strengthen support. The purpose for filing Form I-864 is to remove the public charge ground of inadmissibility.

USCIS reviews the annual income of the sponsor providing support to determine if he or she is able to support the applicant. Under the statute, the minimum income to establish a sufficient Form I-864 is generally 125 percent of the FPG (100 percent for active duty military) based on the sponsor’s household size plus the total number of sponsored immigrants and dependents supported by the sponsor. A sufficient Affidavit of Support is a positive consideration in the totality of the circumstances. However, USCIS considers other relevant factors related to the sponsor’s ability to support their household and the sponsored immigrant(s) even if his or her income meets the 125 percent of FPG threshold. An officer will give greater positive weight to a Form I-864 submitted by a sponsor who has greater income and assets available than the minimum required by the statute.

However, several factors can potentially dilute this support, giving it less positive weight. Circumstances that can reduce the positive weight of an otherwise sufficient Affidavit of Support include the sponsor's:

When preparing Form I-864, it is generally necessary that the household income be at a level equal to or greater than 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines (FPG):

  • Your sponsor's income and assets are at or above 125 percent of the FPG
    A sufficient Affidavit of Support is a positive consideration in the totality of the circumstances. Greater positive weight will be given to an Affidavit of Support from a sponsor who has greater income and assets available than the minimum.
  • Your sponsor's support is compromised
    An Affidavit of Support that does not meet the minimum (125 percent of the FPG) is insufficient and does not satisfy the requirement. Further, an otherwise sufficient Affidavit of Support will be given less weight if the sponsor's support is compromised.

Determining household size and household income for your place of domain can be difficult.
When preparing the Affidavit of Support on CitizenPath.com, we'll help you make these determinations.

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I-944 Requirements No Long in Effect

Under the Trump administration, the U.S. government had a stricter interpretation of the law resulting in a new public charge rule. An intending immigrant was inadmissible if he or she was more likely than not any time in the future to receive one or more public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period. USCIS weighed all the positive and negative factors in an applicant’s background. These factors included age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, and skills.
Who Was Required to File a Declaration of Self-Sufficiency

Very few categories of immigrants were not required to file Form I-944. In other words, you likely needed to submit Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency, if you were filing an adjustment of status application. Almost all family-based and employment-based applications required Form I-944. This even included children. Failure to submit a required I-944 would have resulted in a denial of your I-485 application.

There were certain individuals who were exempted from the public charge ground of inadmissibility and were therefore exempt from filing Form I-944. You were exempt from filing Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency, if you are adjusting status:

  • As a VAWA self-petitioner;
  • As a Special Immigrant Juvenile;
  • As a Certain Afghan or Iraqi national;
  • As an Asylee;
  • As a Refugee;
  • As a victim of qualifying criminal activity (U Nonimmigrant) under INA section 245(m);
  • Under any category other than INA section 245(m) but you are in valid U nonimmigrant status at the time you file your application for adjustment of status. (This exemption only applies if, at the time of the adjudication of the Form I-485, you are still in valid U nonimmigrant status. If, at the time of adjudication of the Form I-485, you are no longer in valid U nonimmigrant status, you may be required to submit a Form I-944 and a Form I-864).
  • As a victim of human trafficking (T nonimmigrant) under section 245(l) of the INA;
  • Under any category other than INA section 245(l), but you either have a pending application for T nonimmigrant status (Form I-914) that sets forth a prima facie case for eligibility, or are in valid T nonimmigrant status at the time you file your application for adjustment of status. (This exemption only applies if your Form I-914 is still pending and deemed to be prima facie eligible, or you are in valid T nonimmigrant status when we adjudicate your adjustment of status application);
  • Under the Cuban Adjustment Act;
  • Under the Cuban Adjustment Act for battered spouses and children;
  • Based on dependent status under the Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act;
  • Based on dependent status under the Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act for battered spouses and children;
  • As a Lautenberg Parolee;
  • Under the Indochinese Parole Adjustment Act of 2000;
  • Based on continuous residence in the United States since before January 1, 1972 (“Registry”);
  • Under the Amerasian Homecoming Act;
  • As a Polish or Hungarian Parolee;
  • As Nicaraguans and other Central Americans under section 203 of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA);
  • As an American Indian Born in Canada (INA section 289) or the Texas Band of Kickapoo Indians of the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, Pub. L. 97-429 (Jan. 8, 1983); or
  • As a spouse, child, or parent of a deceased soldier under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Minimum Requirements on Form I-944

The evaluation of Form I-944 included a review of several different factors. The determination of an intending immigrant’s likelihood of becoming a public charge at any time in the future was a prospective determination based on the “totality of the circumstances” and by weighing all of the factors that were relevant to an individual’s case. In other words, these various criteria were reviewed together.

In the law, the totality of the circumstances test refers to a method of analysis where decisions are based on all available information rather than clear-cut rules. No one factor is cause for a determination. A USCIS officer must consider all factors, positive and negative, to decide if an intending immigration is likely to become a public charge in the future.

When the I-944 was in effect, USCIS would consider the following factors when making a determination if an applicant was likely to become a public charge at any time in the future:

  • Age
  • Health
  • Family status
  • Assets, resources, and financial status
  • Education and skills
  • Prospective immigration status
  • Expected period of admission
  • Sufficient Affidavit of Support (Form I-864)
To learn more about Form I-944 (Declaration of Self-Sufficiency) and the public charge rule, please visit USCIS.gov.