Articles Posted in Public Charge

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Our Chicago immigration lawyers have sifted through the DHS’s regulations and answers to the regulatory comments to understand the DHS decision making process when applying the public charge rules.  The Public Charge rule prescribes how DHS and the State Department will determine whether a foreign national who is applying for admission or adjustment of status is inadmissible in the United States because the foreign national is likely at any time to become a public charge.  The rule defines as a public charge a person who receives one or more public benefits for 12 months during a 36-month period.  If the person receives two benefits in one month, this will count as two in the 12 months, and a person who receives two benefits for 6 months within any 36-months-period will be considered a public charge.

The public charge rule does not apply to U.S. citizens, even if the citizens are related to the foreign national that is subject to the public charge inadmissibility ground.  However, if a U.S. citizen sponsor receives public benefits, the DHS will consider this receipt a negative factor for the alien.  The public charge inadmissibility does not apply to aliens whom Congress has exempted.  In addition, DHS has statutory discretion to waive the grounds of inadmissibility for public charge.

DHS does not have a crystal ball to determine whether an alien is likely to become a public charge.  Instead, the agency adopted a totality of the circumstances framework. Under this framework, the DHS adjudicators will review several factors and make a decision based on all of the evidence that supports each factor, and all of the evidence that supports all factors.  Because each factor can be positive or negative, and some factors are heavily positive or heavily negative, it is essential to recognize which factors can tip the scale in either direction and to offset the negative factors with positive evidence.  If overcoming a negative factor is not possible, for example,  age,  concentrate on increasing the weight on other factors to tip the scale in your favor.  Remember that the burden is the preponderance of the evidence, which means more likely than not.


As already mentioned, some factors are immutable.  You cannot change your age at the time of the application, and the age will be either a negative or a positive.  However, other factors provide more flexibility, and with good lawyering, one can make a convincing argument in one’s favor.  For example, a person may be elderly. Still, if the person has an education, good health, work experience, or is a caretaker of someone else,  these positive factors will offset the negative factor of age.   To show age, you can submit your passport or your birth certificate.  If your age is between 18 and 61, this is a positive factor.

Applicant’s Health

Good health is a positive factor.  Poor health is not necessarily a negative factor.  A negative factor will be a medical condition documented by the civil surgeon as likely to require extensive medical treatment or institutionalization or that will interfere with the applicant’s ability to provide and care for himself or herself, to attend school, or to work upon admission or adjustment of status.

If you have a medical condition, don’t despair as the agency is willing to review expert reports that can mitigate the negativity of this factor.  Your treater can provide a description, explaining that your condition is Continue reading →

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The Chicago immigration attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer follow closely the legal developments and litigation in the application of the Public Charge Rule.  The Department of Homeland Security’s regulations interpreting the Public Charge Inadmissibility include definitions and explanations about what factors DHS will consider in determining that a person is likely to become a public charge.  The DHS has enumerated the following factors:

  • Applicant’s Age
  • Applicant’s Health
  • Family Status
  • Applicant’s Assets, Resources, and Financial Status
  • Applicant’s Education and Skills
  • Applicant’s Immigration Status and Expected Period of Admission
  • Sponsor’s Ability to Support
  • Previous Public Charge Inadmissibility

The DHS will weigh each factor individually and cumulatively.  The DHS will assess the weighed degree to which each factor is negative or positive.  The factors will be weighed as positive, heavily weighed positive, neither positive or negative, negative, or heavily weighed negative.  The DHS (USCIS) and the DOS (Consulates) will apply the totality of circumstances framework to determine whether an alien is more or less likely to become a public charge in the future. Continue reading →

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The immigration attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer PC have compiled a comprehensive checklist with resources for gathering the documents required to meet the public charge inadmissibility provision.   People who apply for an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa, unless statutorily exempt from the public charge inadmissiblity must complete form DS-5540.  People who apply for adjustment of status, unless statutorily exempt from the public charge inadmissibility must submit Form I-944.

Where applicable, you must also submit an Affidavit of Support.   You can download and use our checklist to gather your documents.

Checklist – Public Charge (Z&Z)

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A new legal wall for immigrants and nonimmigrants will go up on February 24, 2020.  The Department of Homeland Security will begin implementing the new Public Charge Rule.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it will begin implementing the Public Charge Rule on and after February 24, 2020.  The rule will not be applied for applicants with physical address in Illinois as a result of an injunction by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The DHS has requested a stay of the injunction from the Seventh Circuit in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to stay the nationwide injunction.   If the Seventh Circuit lifts the injunction, the USCIS will provide additional guidance.  The USCIS has a special address and webpage for applicants from Illinois who live in Illinois.

According to public announcement, the USCIS will apply the rule to petitions and application postmarked on or after February 24, 2020.  For petitions or applications sent by commercial carrier, the postmark date will be reflected on the courier receipt.  For applications that are postmarked prior to February 24, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security will not consider the alien’s application, certification or approval to receive, or receipt of certain non-cash public benefits before Feb. 24, 2020. Similarly, when determining whether the public benefits condition applies to applications or petitions for extension of stay or change of status, USCIS will only consider public benefits received on or after Feb. 24, 2020.

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