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Changes to DHS Public Charge Rules

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.