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New Injunction Halts Use of Form I-944 “Declaration of Self-Sufficiency”

A recent injunction issued by a federal district judge in New York has forced the Trump Administration to suspend its sweeping expansion of the Public Charge ground of inadmissibility.  As a result, filings postmarked on or after July 29, 2020 should not include Form I-944 (“Declaration of Self-Sufficiency”) and provide no information regarding receipt of public benefits on USCIS forms.

 The USCIS website explicitly states that the agency “will not reject any Form I-485 on the basis of the inclusion or exclusion of Form I-944, nor Forms I-129 and I-539 based on whether Part 6, or Part 5, respectively, has been completed or left blank.”   (https://www.uscis.gov/green-card/green-card-processes-and-procedures/public-charge/injunction-of-the-inadmissibility-on-public-charge-grounds-final-rule)

 The suspension of this burdensome policy will likely be time limited.  For one thing, the judge issued the injunction based on a public health argument that the policy was a barrier to COVID control, and as case levels drop off that argument will lose its strength.  For another, the federal government will likely appeal and may well succeed in having the injunction lifted.    

 In the interim, the USCIS will use the more lenient Public Charge Guidance that was in place prior to February 24, perhaps speeding adjudications and allowing approval of an expanded number of cases already in the pipeline.  New filings will be easier without the voluminous documentation the I-944 requires.  However, it is unclear what will happen should an appeals court or the Supreme Court lift the injunction while cases filed after July 29 are making their way through the system.  Will USCIS adjudicate any case filed while the injunction was in force under the more lenient policy?  Or will they issue wholesale Requests for Further Evidence to show applicants meet standards under the more restrictive policy? One thing we do know:  filing while the injunction is in force will not hurt and may prove a significant shortcut to case approval. 

 More information on the court case is available here, among many others sources.

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