Public Charge Rule Stopped Nationwide by Federal Court

On Monday, November 2, 2020, in Cook County, Illinois, et al v. Wolf et. Al., a federal court in the Northern District of Illinois granted summary judgment and vacated the so-called Public Charge Rule. This rule, which was put into place by the Trump Administration last year, required applicants for green cards and other immigration benefits to submit extensive documentation to demonstrate that they are not likely to become a “public charge,” i.e. a person requiring government welfare assistance. The rule had previously been temporarily enjoined by the same court in October 2019. The injunction was lifted by the US Supreme Court on February 21, 2020.

Under the now invalidated rule, green card applicants were required to submit credit reports, tax returns, evidence of education and English proficiency, and other personal and financial information when applying for the final stage of the green card (the I-485 adjustment of status, or immigrant visa application). The Cook vs. Wolf court found that the DHS violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and exceeded its authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) in passing the public charge rule. The DHS is expected to appeal this decision.

What This Means for Our Clients

As of Monday, November 2, 2020, green card applicants, and applicants for other immigration benefits are no longer required to submit the voluminous evidence to prove self-sufficiency that was required by the Public Charge Rule. For the high volume of I-485 applications already filed during the month of October, the court’s decision also likely means that the USCIS will not issue requests for evidence (RFEs) for any perceived deficiencies with the evidence previously submitted. However, the likelihood of becoming a “public charge” is still grounds for inadmissibility under the INA, and an applicant may be found eligible for a green card or other immigration benefit if they have accepted means-based government benefits in the past. The DHS is also likely to appeal the decision, and an appellate court may overturn the district court’s decision in the coming weeks or months.

We will provide more information as it becomes available.

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