Public Charge Rule Vacated
In another twist in the saga of the new public charge rule, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois decided on November 2, 2020 that the rule violates administrative and federal law. In making this dramatic decision, the court immediately set aside the public charge rule and announced that the DHS may not apply this rule to the adjudication of applications moving forward. For visa and adjustment of status applicants, this means that a myriad of forms and additional supporting documents are technically no longer required with their application submissions. Such forms include the I-944, an 18 page application which significantly increases the documentary burden on green card applicants. For example, this form asks for a complete assessment of the household assets, debts, and liabilities for each applicant and a disclosure of the receipt of any past public benefits. The supporting documentation required to supplement such disclosures can often amount to hundreds of pages of bank account statements, credit history, degree evaluations, and a myriad of other documents that can take weeks and cost hundreds of dollars to obtain.
Accordingly, this can only be seen as good news for immigration advocates and thousands of applicants for non-immigrant and immigrant visas. Removing this administrative hurdle and loosening the public charge restrictions encourages immigrants from all walks of life to seek work and a better life in the United States. Continuing to profile applicants based upon a snapshot of their finances in light of a restrictive and convoluted rule is surely the antithesis of the American dream, and this judicial decision is a positive development in an otherwise trying immigration climate.
Unfortunately, as with so many progressive victories, this decision can and likely will be appealed. The ultimate review of this ruling may come to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in February of 2020 decided to lift a nationwide injunction, or block, of this rule on procedural grounds. However this legal battle plays out, advocates and applicants alike should closely monitor the USCIS webpages for the I-485 and I-944 forms, as changes in the preparation instructions of these forms are expected soon and could dramatically impact the content and documentation submitted with adjustment of status applications.