The new USCIS public charge changes for green card applications are in effect

On December 23, 2022, significant changes to Form I-485 (Application for Adjustment of Status) of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) went into effect in New Jersey and the rest of the country, including a less vague public charge portion and several additional questions.

Changes to public charge definition

The new public charge portion now clearly defines a public charge as someone dependent on the government for “subsistence.” The definition also includes those requiring institutionalized long-term care at the government’s expense. This includes explicitly these programs:

  • Medicaid and programs supporting long-term nursing home care and mental health institutions.
  • General Assistance programs such as cash assistance at the state and local levels.
  • TANF, which is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, such as welfare or food stamps.
  • SSI, which is Supplemental Security Income

New questions on form I-485

The new questions on Form I-485 include whether the immigrant has ever received financial assistance from the government through Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security. In US immigration law, if an applicant checks “yes” to the public charge question of not being admissible, they have to submit further information based on USCIS’ interpretation of the public charge provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The additional information now required is as follows:

  • If the applicant received long-term institutionalization paid for by the government.
  • If they have received supplemental income from cash benefit programs.
  • They must list their educational certifications, licenses, and work-related skills.
  • The applicant must reveal the highest level of school or degree achieved.
  • They must also reveal household liabilities, assets, annual household income, and household size.

Restrictive factors

The public charge provision is already one of the most restrictive factors that USCIS uses when considering an individual’s eligibility for a green card. However, adding these additional questions make it easier for certain immigrants to obtain legal status in the United States.

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