December 16, 2022
On September 9, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published the Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility final rule in an effort to provide clarity and consistency in how DHS administers this inadmissibility criteria. It is important to note that this final rule goes into effect on December 23, 2022, and will apply to any Forms I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, filed with USCIS on or after December 23, 2022. Prior to this effective date, USCIS will review submitted Forms I-485 according to the 1999 Interim Field Guidance.
The new Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility final rule will closely mirror the 1999 Interim Field Guidance, which has been applied by adjudicating officers for the better part of two decades to determine whether a foreign national qualifies as a public charge. Similar to the standard given in the 1999 Interim Field Guidance, the new final rule ties inadmissibility for public charge grounds to a finding that a noncitizen is “likely at any time to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or long-term institutionalization at government expense.” Crucially, in their assessment, DHS will not consider a noncitizen’s receipt of certain public benefits such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other nutritional programs, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid – unless it was used for long-term institutional services, housing benefits, benefits relating to immunizations or tests for communicable diseases, or other supplemental or special-purpose benefits. This final rule reaffirms the government’s efforts to focus the public charge ground of inadmissibility on those noncitizens who are unable or unwilling to support themselves, and thus significantly rely on the government for their support.
Due to the changes in how the public charge ground of inadmissibility will be administered pursuant to the final rule, it became necessary for USCIS to publish an updated edition of Form I-485 – which must be used for any Form I-485 filings submitted on or after December 23, 2022. The new edition of the Form I-485 will include additional questions regarding the applicant’s family status, assets, resources, financial status, education and skills, and past receipt of designated public benefits to help adjudicating officers better assess whether the public charge ground of inadmissibility applies to a given case.
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