USCIS Sets Effective Date for Public Charge Rule: Feb 24, 2020

Please note that the public charge rule only applies to new applicants for family-based adjustment of status, employment-based cases, diversity visas and non-immigrant visas. If you or your case does not fall into these specific categories, the public charge rule does not apply to you.

USCIS has officially announced that the the public charge rule goes into effect on February 24, 2020 except for in the State of Illinois where the rule remains enjoined by a federal court as of January 30, 2020.

USCIS will only apply the public charge rule to applications and petitions postmarked (or submitted electronically) on or after Feb. 24, 2020.

Rules cannot be applied retroactively. As such, the agency has said that it would not consider any application or receipt of any public benefits prior to February 24, 2020.

Applicants should check with their respective states but these programs will now be considered as public benefits:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • General Assistance
  • Medical Assistance for long-term care
  • Medicaid (with exceptions for emergency services, and coverage of children under age 21 and pregnant women up to 60 days after the birth of their child)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps)
  • Public Housing, Section 8 housing vouchers, and Project-Based Section 8

These benefits are generally not considered public benefits:

  • Emergency Medical Assistance
  • Disaster Relief
  • School lunch or school breakfast programs
  • Foster Care and adoption
  • Head Start
  • Entirely state, local or tribal-funded programs (other than cash assistance)
  • Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit
  • Subsidized Health Insurance Under the Affordable Care Act
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
  • Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP or SCHIP)
  • Energy Assistance
  • Unemployment
  • Student loans and state and federal scholarships
  • Non-cash TANF benefits
  • Advance premium tax credits under the Affordable Care Act
  • Transportation vouchers or non-cash transportation services
  • Benefits received by immigrant’s family members
  • Benefits received by active duty service members, military reservists and their spouses and children

The new public charge rules does not apply to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents applying for citizenship, refugees and asylees adjusting status, VAWA self-petitioners, U and T visa applicants (and those adjusting status through these categories), special immigrant juveniles, and certain other groups of non-citizens. 

The rule impacts family-based green card applications, employment-based applications, diversity visas and applications for non-immigrant visas. If your case falls into these categories, it is advisable to get your applications post-marked prior to the new deadline.

Failure to do so may lead to the rejection of your application, and may require you to submit new forms, including the not-yet-released I-944 form along with your application.

After February 24, 2020, if you are filing an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485), Petition for Non Immigrant Worker (I-129), or an Application for Change/Extension of Status and you are subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility, you would be required to file a Form I-944

Photo Credit: USDA

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