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Changes to DHS Public Charge Rules

September 29, 2020

USCIS Resumes Nationwide Application of Public Charge Regulation

On Sept. 11, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a decision that allows DHS to resume implementing the Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility final rule nationwide, including in New York, Connecticut and Vermont.

Starting October 13, 2020, USCIS will reject any adjustment of status application filed without Form I-944 and related documentation. Applications for extension of stay and changes of status (including for F-1, J-1 and H-1Bs) filed on Forms I-129 and I-539 do not appear to be granted a grace period by USCIS. At this time, it is recommended that international students and scholars completing these forms should answer public benefits condition questions out of an abundance of caution.

For more information, please see the Sept. 22nd USCIS Notice and the NAFSA Public Charge Website. OISS will continue to monitor the situation and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact OISS.


August 20, 2020

Court appeals allows DHS to implement Public Charge rule in most U.S. states

On August 12, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit partially stayed the injunction ordered on July 29, 2020, ordering that the injunction cover only the states within the second circuit: Connecticut, New York, and Vermont. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will again be permitted to implement its public charge rule in all U.S. states except for Vermont, Connecticut, and New York. Public charge is a term used to refer to a person who is primarily dependent on the government for support. Under the new public charge rule, it expands the definition of who is considered a public charge.

DHS is expected to issue guidance regarding the filing of immigration applications impacted by the new limited injunction. It is expected that these applications must again adhere to the new public charge regulation form and documentation requirements. 

Please note that this injunction does not affect the court order barring implementation of the Department of State public charge rule, which part of a separate lawsuit.

For more information, please see NAFSA: Final Rules on Public Charge. OISS will continue to monitor the situation and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact OISS.


July 29, 2020

On July 29, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued two nationwide preliminary injunctions that block implementation and enforcement of the current USCIS and DOS public charge rules and policies during the declared national emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. This means that USCIS will not apply its 2019 public charge regulation to applications for adjustment of status or nonimmigrant changes or extensions of status that are adjudicated on or after July 29, 2020, the date of a federal court order blocking the agency from applying the regulation.

USCIS will issue guidance regarding the use of affected forms. In the interim, USCIS will not reject any Form I-485 on the basis of the inclusion or exclusion of Form I-944, nor Forms I-129 and I-539 based on whether Part 6, or Part 5, respectively, has been completed or left blank.

OISS will continue to monitor the situation and will post any updates on this page.

For more information, please see USCIS: Injunction of the Inadmissibility on Public Charge and NAFSA: Final Rules on Public Charge. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact OISS at any time.


January 31, 2020

Update: On Monday, January 27, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may proceed with the implementation of the new public charge regulation, which will start on February 24, 2020 in all states except Illinois.

  • Foreign nationals seeking permanent residence through the adjustment of status process will be subject to significantly increased information and documentation requirements, and more intense scrutiny of their personal circumstances, if their applications are postmarked on or after February 24. They will be required to provide financial and credit documentation.
  • Nonimmigrants seeking an extension or change of status will not be subject to the full impact of the rule, but, as of February 24, must satisfy a new public charge condition to be deemed eligible for their requested immigration benefit. They will be required to disclose certain public benefits they receive or are expected to receive on or after this date.

OISS recommends that international students and scholars do not seek the public benefits referenced in the August 14, 2019 update below. If you are considering public assistance, please make an appointment with OISS so we may discuss how it may impact your immigration status.

We will continue to monitor the situation and will post any new updates on this page. For additional resources, please see the USCIS statement on the public charge rule and the NAFSA resource page.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact OISS at any time.


October 14, 2019

Update: On October 11, 2019, a federal district court judge issued a nationwide preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of the DHS public charge rule, which had been set to go into effect on October 15, 2019. The court order blocks DHS and USCIS from enforcing, applying or treating as effective the DHS public charge policy. The order also stops DHS from implementing or requiring the use of any new or updated forms (I-129, I-1539, etc.) whose submission would have been required under the Rule. If the public charge rule later goes into effect, the Rule's stated effective date of October 15, 2019 shall be replaced with a date after the injunction has ended. For more information, please see NAFSA’s Final Rules on Public Charge Determinations. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our office at any time.


August 14, 2019

On August 14, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a final rule related to public charge in the Federal Register. The rule will not take effect until October 15, 2019. Additionally, many organizations have stated they will file lawsuits challenging the rule which could delay implementation.

Public charge is a term used to refer to a person who is primarily dependent on the government for support. The new rule expands the definition of who is considered a public charge. Under the new rule, a foreign national may be considered a public charge if he or she has received one or more certain public benefits for more than a combined 12 months within any 36-month period. Benefit programs considered for public charge are:

  • Federal, state, local or tribal cash benefits for income maintenance (including Supplemental Security Income or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families);
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps);
  • Certain federal housing benefits, including Section 8 Housing Assistance or Project-based Rental Assistance; and
  • Medicaid (with some exceptions)

Also, USCIS will create a new form, Form I-944 Declaration of Self-Sufficiency that I-485 adjustment of status (green card) applicants will have to complete to provide information on receipt of public benefits. The final rule will also require USCIS to update the following forms, in addition to others, with questions about receipt of public benefits:

  • Form I-129 (H, L, O, TN, etc. petition)
  • Form I-539 (application to extend/change nonimmigrant status)
  • Form I-539A (co-applicants of I-539 principal applicants)
  • Form I-485 (adjustment of status to permanent residence)

OISS recommends that international students and scholars do not seek the above public benefits. If you are considering public assistance, please make an appointment with OISS so we may discuss how it may impact your immigration status.

We will continue to monitor the situation and will post any new updates on this page. For additional resources, please see the NAFSA Association of International Educators website and Fact Sheet: Changes to Public Charge. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our office at any time.