USCIS to Implement Public Charge Final Rule on February 24, 2020, Except in Illinois

On January 30, 2020, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced that it will begin implementing the public charge final rule on February 24, 2020. The final rule will apply only to applications and petitions postmarked (or if applicable, submitted electronically) on or after Feb. 24, 2020. USCIS will be releasing updated forms during the week of February 3rd.

Under the public charge final rule published in August 2019, the USCIS may deny certain requests for immigration benefits based on inadmissibility as a public charge if the USCIS determines the foreign national is likely to become dependent on certain government benefits in the future. USCIS adjudicating officer will consider factors including age, health, family status, financial status, income and assets, and education and skills, in order to determine whether the foreign national is likely at any time to become a public charge. USCIS will only consider a foreign national’s application for, certification or approval to receive, or receipt of certain non-cash public benefits after February 24, 2020. Unless specifically exempted, the public charge ground of inadmissibility will apply to both family-based and employment-based green card applicants. In addition, the final rule will expand the public charge ground of inadmissibility to foreign nationals within the United States who hold a nonimmigrant visa and seek to extend their stay in the same nonimmigrant classification or to change their status to a different nonimmigrant classification.

The USCIS’ implementation of the public charge final rule was precipitated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this week that lifted the nationwide preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the Trump Administration’s controversial rule. The 5-4 ruling only applies to the injunction issued by the lower federal court in New York. The other nationwide preliminary injunctions issued by the lower federal courts in California, Washington and Maryland were stayed by the federal appeals courts in early December. Only the statewide injunction issued by the lower federal court in Illinois remains in place. As a result, the USCIS is enjoined from enforcing public charge rule in Illinois and can only implement the final rule in 49 States. If the injunction in Illinois is lifted, USCIS will provide additional public guidance.

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