Public Charge

Public Charge

MARCH 9, 2021 — The federal government informed the U.S. Supreme Court that it will no longer defend the public charge rule issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the Trump administration. DHS announced that it would restore the public charge policy described in the 1999 field guidance once the order vacating the DHS rule is final. Since that order is now final, DHS confirmed that the 1999 guidance is in effect for applications processed within the United States.

The U.S. State Department’s public charge regulations and related policies, including President Trump’s health insurance proclamation, continue to be enjoined (placed on hold) by a federal judge in Make the Road New York v. Pompeo.

On February 2, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order (EO) titled “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans.” It directs the U.S. secretary of State, the attorney general, the secretary of Homeland Security, and the heads of other relevant federal agencies to review all agency actions related to implementation of the public charge ground of inadmissibility and deportability. This review is to be undertaken in consultation with the heads of relevant agencies, including the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and Housing and Urban Development. The EO requires the secretary of State, the attorney general, and the secretary of Homeland Security to each submit a report of their recommendations to the president within 60 days after its execution.

The EO says, in its opening section: “The Federal Government should develop welcoming strategies that promote integration, inclusion, and citizenship, and it should embrace the full participation of the newest Americans in our democracy.” This opening section further says that it is essential for the federal government to eliminate “sources of fear and other barriers that prevent immigrants from accessing government services available to them.” The mandated review of public charge policies is to be undertaken with reference to this global policy. The EO further directs agency heads to identify actions to be taken to address concerns about the effects of the public charge policies on the integrity of the immigration system and public health, and to recommend steps that relevant agencies should take to communicate current public charge policies and proposed changes in a manner that reduces fear and confusion in immigrant communities.

The EO incorporates a second action related to public charge — revocation of the May 23, 2019, memorandum titled “Enforcing the Legal Responsibilities of Sponsors of Aliens,” which endeavored to impose unfunded burdens on state benefits-granting agencies, contemplated extensive sharing of immigrants’ personal information across federal agencies, and spawned several ill-advised information-collection efforts.

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Public Charge Update: What Advocates Need to Know Now (PDF)

UPDATE: May 13, 2021 — On March 15, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a final rule that removed its 2019 public charge regulations from the Federal Register, discontinued the Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency, and other forms used to implement the 2019 rule and called for the revision of the Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and forms related to affidavits of support. These changes, which implement USCIS’s reinstatement of the 1999 field guidance, went into effect on March 9, 2021.

On March 15, USCIS also posted a notice declaring that it stopped applying the 2019 public charge rule to all pending applications and petitions on March 9 and advising applicants that they no longer need to provide information or evidence that is solely related to the 2019 public charge rule, including the Form I-944.

March 9 is the date that an order vacating the USCIS 2019 public charge rule went into effect, after the government informed the U.S. Supreme Court that it will no longer defend the public charge rule issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the Trump administration.

[ Read more – PDF ]

Screening Tool

This screening tool, created by our partners at PIF California, was developed by benefits experts and immigration lawyers to help immigrant communities understand if there is a public charge test for their immigration plans or status.

  • Go to (English, Spanish, and Chinese)
  • You can also access California-specific information by text at 650-376-8006
    • Text “benefits” for English
    • Text “libre” for Spanish
    • Text “福利” for Chinese
    • Text “lợiích” for Vietnamese