The Trump Administration’s draconian 2019 Public Charge Final Rule is no longer in effect. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it will revert to utilizing the public charge guidance that was in effect prior to implementation of the 2019 rule. With elimination of the rule, Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency, is no longer required in connection with adjustment of status (“green card”) applications and individuals no longer have to respond to questions regarding the receipt of public benefits on the current version of Forms I-485, I-129 and I-539.
The Trump Administration advanced the 2019 Public Charge Final Rule to impose a “wealth test” on intending immigrants and nonimmigrants. The rule was almost immediately challenged as unlawful. Several federal courts issued decisions invalidating or blocking enforcement of the rule, but the prior administration appealed the decisions at both the federal circuit court and U.S. Supreme Court level. Upon taking office, the Biden Administration directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to review the 2019 Public Charge Final Rule and the ongoing federal court litigation. DHS subsequently announced that it would not continue to appeal judicial decisions invaliding the rule. With dismissal of the appeals, on March 9, 2021, an earlier federal court decision from Illinois invaliding the rule took effect nationwide. On March 15, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security published a final rule, effective March 9, 2021, removing the 2019 Public Charge Final Rule from the immigration regulations, and restoring the pre-2019 public charge guidance.
What This Means for Foreign Nationals
The 2019 Public Charge Rule, now vacated, had expanded the definition of public charge, potentially disqualifying large numbers of green card applicants, while also significantly increasing the burden of proof and evidence of income required for others. Elimination of the rule is a significant step toward ending the chaos stemming from publication of the rule in 2019 and restoring predictability to adjudication of adjustment of status applications.