USCIS Policy Updates Simplified: The Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility

We are summarizing the recent policy updates from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regarding the “public charge ground of inadmissibility.”

What is the Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility?

The public charge ground of inadmissibility is a legal term used in immigration law. It refers to a rule that can deny visas, admission, or adjustment of status to people who are likely to become dependent on government benefits – these individuals are referred to as a “public charge.”

What has Changed?

USCIS has made important changes to make it easier for applicants to understand who this rule applies to. The information has been moved from Volume 8, Part G, of the USCIS Policy Manual to Chapter 3, titled “Applicability.” This should help you easily identify whether the public charge rule applies to your situation.

This update is intended to assist applicants in answering accurately to questions related to the public charge ground of inadmissibility on Form I-485, the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. It aims to streamline the adjudication process, helping officers gather the information they need to make a decision without having to issue a Request for Evidence.

Who Does This Rule Apply To?

The public charge ground of inadmissibility generally applies to anyone applying for a visa, admission, or adjustment of status. However, there are exceptions, and it does not apply to everyone. This rule may affect you if you fall into one of the following categories:

1. Nonimmigrants: People applying for a temporary, nonimmigrant visa, like a business or tourist visa, are affected. After obtaining a visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate, or pre-travel authorization from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), you may travel to the U.S. However, upon arrival, CBP will determine your admissibility, which includes the public charge assessment.

2. Immigrants: People applying for an immigrant visa abroad, once approved, are assessed for admissibility, including the public charge rule, before receiving their visa.

3. Certain Lawful Permanent Residents: Those returning to the U.S. after a trip abroad are usually not subject to inadmissibility determinations. However, under certain circumstances, they may be considered applicants for admission and be subject to a public charge determination.

4. Applicants for Adjustment of Status: This rule will generally apply unless they are specifically exempt from the public charge ground of inadmissibility. The affected categories are numerous, covering a wide range from family-based and employment-based adjustment applicants to special immigrant and other adjustment applicants.

Are There Any Exemptions?

Yes! The public charge rule doesn’t apply to everyone. A variety of categories, like asylees, refugees, certain military members, victims of human trafficking, or certain categories of noncitizens under other laws, are exempt from the public charge ground of inadmissibility.

Even among the exempted categories, some still need to submit Form I-864, the Affidavit of Support, under specific circumstances. This includes noncitizens applying for adjustment of status based on an employment-based petition filed by a relative or an entity in which a relative has a significant ownership interest.

Remember, these changes are designed to help you navigate the immigration process. As always, please connect with us for personalized advice based on your circumstances. You may also book consultations from our website.