New immigration Public Charge Rule Takes Effect on February 24

Attorney Caroly Pedersen

MIAMI, Florida – As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in favor of the Trump administration’s emergency request to allow the “public charge” immigration rule to be enacted, the controversial measure will officially take effect on February 24 in all states except Illinois.

Under the new rule, immigration officials can deny green cards and other immigration benefits to those who have or are deemed likely to use public assistance programs like Medicaid and Food Stamps in the future.

USCIS announced it will begin implementing the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds final rule (“Final Rule”) for all applications received on or February 24. New versions of Forms I-129, I-485 I-539, I-864, and I-864EZ have become or will be available this week and any applications received on or after the effective date will be rejected.

Applicants are advised not to wait until the last minute, but give plenty of time for their application to be received by the USCIS before the February 24 deadline. Since the 24th falls on a Monday, and USCIS does not accept deliveries on Saturday or Sunday, its best to plan to have the relevant application delivered no later than Thursday, February 20, to account for any unexpected shipping delays.

For those who may not be able to file applications before the February 24, 2020 deadline, now is a good time to start preparing for the new requirements. On that date, all residency cases, change/extension of status and certain work visa applications will require the submission of the new Public Charge form I-944 Declaration of Self Sufficiency.

People living overseas and going through U.S. Consulates should complete the Form DS–5540 Public Charge Questionnaire. The form and instructions require applicants to list information, including: Household income, tax, assets, debts, credit scores, educational degrees, occupational skills and licenses held, health insurance information and English proficiency skills and provide copies of all documents relating to those items. For instance, applicants must provide documents to prove household income, copies of tax returns filed (if applicable), copies of assets, i.e. savings/checking/investment statements, deeds to real estate, automobile title and any other assets listed.

The rule also now requires applicants to provide a credit report, even if they do not have a social security number. Further, those with a low or no score must explain and provide other proof of payment of debts (for instance payment statements for utilities, cell phone, etc.)

Additionally, copies of high school diplomas and college degrees are required. These must be accompanied by a U.S. equivalency evaluation from an authorized Credential Evaluation Service.

To demonstrate English proficiency, applicants should also include certificates/degrees for English language studies to help increase favorability scores.

Further, those who have non-subsidized health insurance must list the health insurance plan and dates of coverage.

It’s extremely important for new visa applicants to:

Make a list of all their assets (real estate, savings, checking, investments), along with the value of each, and compile bank and other financial statements for each account and locate a copy of titles to any automobiles or real estate they own.

Contact one of the three main credit agencies and request a free credit report. A good credit score, usually over 650, will be very advantageous to get a visa under the new measure,

Try to get an US equivalency evaluation done from an authorized Credential Evaluation Service for high school diploma, college degrees, licenses and certification courses received outside the US. The closer one’s qualifications are to those obtained in the US the better are one’s chances in the immigration approval process.

Seek to purchase private health insurance. Applicants will substantially increase their visa favorability score by providing proof they have private healthcare insurance with includes coverage for emergency and major medical expenses.

Not apply for immigration fee waivers. This will substantially lower the applicant’s visa favorability score, as will as any applications made for such waivers in the past.

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