USCIS Adding Public Charge Questions to Certain Forms

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is in the process of updating certain forms to add questions that will be used to determine whether a beneficiary or applicant is likely to become a public charge. These questions are being added in response to the final rule scheduled to go into effect on October 15, 2019, which expands the categories of public benefits considered in the determination of whether a foreign national may be deemed a public charge. More details on this rule are available in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility Greatly Expanded (21.Aug.2019).

Changes to Forms I-129, I-539 and I-539A

The petition for a nonimmigrant worker (form I-129) and the application to extend/change nonimmigrant status (form I-539), along with the supplemental form I-539A, are being amended to include questions to help identify whether a nonimmigrant is likely to become a public charge. The draft version of the new forms provides a list of public benefits, and asks the applicant / beneficiary to identity which, if any, s/he has received, or has been certified to receive.

The draft forms also ask several related questions to help identify applicants who are receiving public benefits that cannot be taken into consideration when making a public charge determination, based on provisions in the final rule. For instance, the final rule excludes consideration of certain Medicaid benefits granted for the treatment of an emergency medical condition. Thus, the form asks whether the person has “… received, applied for, or been certified to receive federally-funded Medicaid in connection with … an emergency medical condition.”

Most I-485 Applicants to Submit Declaration of Self-Sufficiency (Form I-944)

The updated public charge rule, as it relates to applicants for lawful permanent residency (i.e., a “green card”), is far more nuanced and complex than the rule for those applying to extend or change nonimmigrant status. Therefore, rather than including all of the public charge questions on the application to register permanent residence or adjust status (form I-485), the USCIS has created a new declaration of self-sufficiency (form I-944), which contains most of the relevant public charge questions.

The draft version of form I-944 is 19-pages in length. It asks for biographical information about the applicant and the applicant’s household members. It includes questions about household income and assets, liabilities and debts, the applicant’s credit history, and history of use of public benefits. It also asks for the applicant’s education and work history, skills, and evidence of skills with English and any other languages. These questions are all related to various issues that can be taken into consideration by the USCIS when evaluating an applicant’s risk of becoming a public charge.

The draft I-485 includes a few related questions, but these are primarily to help determine whether the applicant is even subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility. For instance, if the I-485 application is based on a claim of asylum, the applicant is exempt from the public charge requirement, and therefore would not have to file form I-944.


These are draft versions of the forms, so it is possible that there may be changes made prior to the release of the final versions. These updated forms presumably will be released for use prior to October 15, 2019, which is when the new public charge rule goes into effect. The Murthy Law Firm will share updated information on the forms and other issues of importance to help guide you and your families during these turbulent times.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.