When you hear “public charge” in relation to immigration matters, it is most likely a reference to the public charge ground of inadmissibility found in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). It is one of several grounds listed in the INA for a noncitizen to be considered inadmissible to the U.S. The public charge ground can render an applicant for a visa, adjustment of status, or admission to the U.S. inadmissible unless the applicant is exempt. To ascertain whether an applicant should be considered a person likely to become a public charge, the INA instructs that adjudicators should, at a minimum, consider the applicant’s age, health, family status, resources, and financial status, and education and skills” when making a determination.
Recent changes to the public charge rule include more guidance as to how a person will or will not be determined to be likely become a public charge. In light of changes to the public charge rule, USCIS has also released a new version of Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjustment of Status. Let’s take a look at the new rule change as well as the changes that have been made to Form I-485.
Public Charge Questions and Adjustment of Status Applicants
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced back in December of 2022 that they were releasing a new version of Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjustment Status. The new version reflected changes made in connection with a new regulation pertaining to the public charge ground of inadmissibility set to take effect on December 23, 2022. USCIS made it clear that I-485 applications filed on or after December 23, 2022, must use the new version of the form or USCIS would reject the filing.
The changes to the public charge rule came back on September 8, 2022, when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a new final rule addressing the public charge ground of inadmissibility to be published the following day in the Federal Register. The final rule came into effect on December 23, 2022. In the announcement of the final rule, DHS noted that USCIS would, in turn, issue a revised Form I-485 that would collect additional information. In particular, the additional information would involve questions related to the public charge statutory factors.
The new public charge rule specifies that “likely at any time to become a public charge” means that a person is likely, at any time, to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence. This dependency is demonstrated either by the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or long-term institutionalization paid for by the government. Public cash assistance for income maintenance means that a person receives:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
- Cash assistance for income maintenance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program; or
- State, tribal, territorial, or local cash benefit programs for income maintenance, commonly known as “General Assistance.”
You will find the changes to the I-485 form due to the new public charge rule reflected in a series of questions found in Part 8. The questions are geared towards ascertaining whether an applicant is inadmissible to the U.S. based upon a public charge ground. The new questions include:
- Are you subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility under INA section 212(a)(4)?
- What is the size of your household?
- Indicate your annual household income.
- Identify the total value of your assets.
- Identify the total value of your household liabilities (including both secured and unsecured liabilities.
- What is the highest degree or level of school you have completed.