Public Charge Rule Re-Implemented
In an expected decision by the USCIS, the public charge rule has been re-implemented and is now being applied to the adjudication of all adjustment of status applications filed after February 24, 2020 (the original publication date of the rule). This is regardless of the injunction in place from the end of July until September, during which I-485 adjustment of status applicants were not required to submit a Form I-944 and the new public charge rule was purportedly not applied to such cases. As the USCIS does not explicitly provide for any grace period for applications filed during this injunction, thousands of adjustment of status applicants may soon receive notices and Requests for Evidence asking for additional information regarding their finances, taxes, and other personal information. This solicitation of information will allow USCIS officers to closely scrutinize applications under the new, more restrictive, public charge rule. Further, given that the USCIS is currently undergoing measures to limit staff and cut costs, a significant increase in processing times and the number of case delays is likely.
The USCIS will also be operating under a stringent policy to reject any I-485 applications submitted after October 13, 2020 which do not include the Form I-944 and requisite updated forms. Characteristic of this policy update in general, the agency is not providing much leeway for individuals who filed their applications or petitions in the midst of this court battle or who will file in a matter of weeks. The re-implementation of the Form I-944 and the application of this new rule places tremendous stress on prospective immigrants throughout the country and abroad. Such additional forms and evidence can take weeks to prepare, compile, and cross check, in addition to subjecting applicants to far greater scrutiny than ever before regarding their employment, finances, and health.
Ending on a brighter note - any applicants whose I-485 applications or other non-immigrant petitions were approved after the July 29, 2020 injunction until the date of this notice (9/22/2020) will not have their decisions re-adjudicated, preserving permanent residency for many families regardless of the terms of the new public charge rule.