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New Public Charge rule to take effect February 24, 2020.

On January 27, 2020 the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Trump Administration’s new “Public Charge” rule to take effect everywhere in the United States except Illinois. Lower courts had issued preliminary injunctions blocking the rule until lawsuits challenging the rule were decided. The Supreme Court in turn has now blocked (“stayed”) these preliminary injunctions. The lawsuits themselves will continue, so the effect of the Supreme Court’s ruling is temporary. However, for now, the Trump Administration is free to implement the rule. One lower court ruling in Illinois was not yet before the Supreme Court, so that is why the Public Charge rule will not take effect in Illinois.

On February 5, 2020, USCIS announced that the effective date of the new Public Charge rule will be February 24, 2020. The rule will not apply to applications received or postmarked before February 24, 2020.

USCIS will require new versions of certain common application forms. These new versions contain public charge related questions. These new forms were originally published October 15, 2019, then withdrawn when the courts blocked the rule. USCIS will again require these October 15, 2019 versions in all cases filed on or after February 24, 2020. Forms with new versions include the I-129, I-539, I-485, I-864 and I-601. Be sure to check the USCIS website before filing ANY forms on or after February 24, 2020. Adjustment cases also require the new form I-944, “Declaration of Self Sufficiency.”

The Public Charge rule applies to both immigrants and nonimmigrants. Persons may be considered inadmissible if they have received, or are expected to receive certain public benefits, including SSI, state welfare assistance, food stamps, Section 8 housing assistance, and other public benefits specifically identified in the regulation. In order to decide whether a person is likely to need such benefits in the future, USCIS will consider the person’s age, health, family size, assets, education, and skills.

The regulation is complex and there are many exemptions and exceptions, both in terms of the persons receiving the benefits and the benefits themselves. We recommend that any noncitizen receiving public benefits consult with competent legal counsel as to whether these benefits do or do not jeopardize your status.