2022 New Public Charge: Notable Changes and How Noncitizens are Affected

On December 23, 2022, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, implemented a new public charge rule to replace the 2019 Public Charge Grounds Final Rule, which will no longer be in effect. 

This new public charge rule will amend the regulations that DHS will utilize to determine whether or not a noncitizen will be denied immigration to the US if they are likely to become a public charge. 

Public charge refers to whether or not a noncitizen will need assistance from the government during their time in the United States, meaning they will need to receive cash assistance for income maintenance or long-term institutionalization at the government’s expense. Noncash benefits that were not considered by the DHS when determining a noncitizens likelihood of becoming a public charge in the original 1999 rule included things like food stamps, Medicaid, housing vouchers, and more. 

In the new rule, noncitizens who are applying to come to the U.S. on a visa or adjustment of status must show that they are not likely to at any time become a public charge, unless they are explicitly exempted from this. While this is not a new concept for immigration law, the Trump administration made several expansions to the rule in 2018 that appeared to many as more of a wealth test in an attempt to keep out poor immigrants. The new public charge rule by Biden’s admistration will withdraw the previous rule and will narrow the definition of public charge back to its original meaning when the rule was first introduced back in 1999.

What Will the New Rule Change?

This new final rule will apply to any adjustment of status applications that are filed on or after December 23, 2022. After or on this date, there will be a new version of Form I-485 (Application for Adjustment of Status) to file.

Changes to the Form I-485 include

  • You will now be asked about your debt, and how you can balance this debt with your current income/assets. You’ll be asked questions on any debt you may have such as mortgages, cars, student loans, business loans, etc. You will also be asked about your current income and assets. 
  • You will be required to disclose your highest level or education, any job skills you have, and any other qualifications you hold. 
  • You will also be asked to disclose your use of any public benefits you have/are collecting from the state or federal government. You’ll also be asked if you have been institutionalized at the government’s expense. 

What Government Assistance Will Be Considered for Public Charge Determination?

In order to make the public charge rule more clear and understandable, the DHS has identified which government assistance it will consider when determining if a noncitizen will become a public charge.

These include:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Cash assistance for income maintenance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • State, Tribal, territorial, or local cash benefit programs for income maintenance
  • Long-term institutionalization at the government’s expense

Note

The USCIS encourages noncitizens to seek necessary medical care, especially for COVID-19, without fear of negatively affecting their immigration status. You may also seek pandemic-related benefits and services, including food assistance, housing programs, and more. These benefits will not affect your public charge determination in the new final rule.

When filling out the Form I-485’s new questions, you are not required to submit additional evidence with your application to support your answers. However, keep in mind that the USCIS can request for evidence (RFE) if they need to see additional supporting documentation. For this reason, it is important that you are as truthful and accurate as possible when filling out your adjustment of status form. 

To view the full final public charge rule, visit the Federal Register website or visit the USCIS Public Charge Resources page for more information.

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