Goodbye Public Charge, Hello Path to Citizenship

By Brianne Donovan, Sumner Immigration Law Clerk

If you were considering filing for a green card, there’s no time like the present. On March 9, USCIS announced it would no longer be applying the Trump-era public charge rule. This is great news for anyone who is on the path to being a U.S. Citizen!

The public charge rule was issued in 2019 as a new ground for inadmissibility. The rule presented hurdles for many foreign nationals applying for green cards (and certain nonimmigrant visas) by requiring extensive financial documentation including additional 15-page form.

Prior to the public charge rule, applicants for permanent residency usually only needed to submit an I-864 affidavit of support. The I-864 affidavit is a statement signed by the petitioner or sponsor, formally agreeing to support the foreign national financially. However, the revised 2019 public charge rule allowed USCIS officers to use a wider discretion based on a variety of factors in making public charge determinations.

Officially, USCIS defined “public charge” as a noncitizen who receives a specified public benefit for more than 12 months within any 36-month time period. If a beneficiary received more than one benefit, each benefit contributes to the total time. For example, if a person received two benefits for six months, they would reach the 12-month threshold.

Public benefits include assistance programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and public housing.

While the public charge rule did not apply to all green card categories, it did apply to almost all family-based green card categories. If the applicant was found to likely be a public charge, they would need to submit an additional 15-page form, the I-944. The I-944 resembles a mortgage application, requiring detailed information about assets, household income, debt, and credit reports.

Unsurprisingly, many affected applicants found the public charge rule and requisite documentation a tremendous burden. In some cases, the rule prevented applicants from having their adjustment of status approved. In other cases, it had a chilling effect, making people think twice about applying for permanent residence at all.

USCIS has stated that that the office has “immediately stopped applying the Public Charge Final Rule to all pending applications and petitions that would have been subject to that rule” as of March 9, 2021. This means that if your immigration application has not been reviewed yet or as of March 9, then the USCIS officer will not consider potential public charge concerns as a ground for denying your petition.

With responses due on or after March 9, 2021, USCIS has been instructed not to include information on financial eligibility. However, you still need to respond to the RFE or NOID parts that do not pertain to the Public Charge Final Rule.

To see how the public charge rule recension affects your case and to file with confidence, call us at (804) 396-3412 or send us an email at to set up a consultation.