- 1 What Is Form I-944 and What Does This Form Do?
- 1.1 Difference Between I944 and I-864 Affidavit of Support
- 1.2 Who Is a Public Charge and Who Is Exempted From This Process?
- 1.3 What Does USCIS I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency Require You to Provide?
- 1.4 A complete guide to how you can fill up i-944 and how you can file this properly
- 1.4.1 Read the I 944 instructions thoroughly
- 1.4.2 Complete the Form I-944:
- 18.104.22.168 Part 1: Information about you (the applicant):
- 22.214.171.124 Part 2: Family Status (your household)
- 126.96.36.199 Part 3: The financial status, assets, and resources of your and your family members
- 188.8.131.52 Part 4: Your education and skills:
- 184.108.40.206 Part 5: Declarant’s Statement, Contact Information, Certification, and Signature:
- 220.127.116.11 Part 6, 7, and 8:
- 18.104.22.168 Part 9: Additional Information:
- 1.4.3 Putting the supporting documents from the checklist together
- 1.4.4 Filing of Form 944:
- 1.5 What is the Public Charge Test, is it still in effect? What is the history of the Public Charge rule in the US?
- 1.6 History of the Public Charge rule, 1999
- 1.7 New Rule Update
- 1.8 Conclusion
- 2 Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs):
What Is Form I-944 and What Does This Form Do?
(Updated Note: Effective March 9, 2021, Form I-944 has been discontinued.)**
Filing for Adjustment of Status involves a lot of documentation and a cumbersome process and to add to that, the USCIS came up with a new form, I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency. This form became effective from February 24, 2020. This means that the applicants filing for green cards need to fill up this form along with the I-485, Adjustment of Status, and even some other temporary visa applicants, to allow immigration officers to establish whether they are likely to become a public charge during any point of time in the future. If so, then their application can be denied on the grounds of the public charge.
While the concept of public charge was first brought into effect by Congress in 1882, they hadn’t specified or defined what public charge was or who this term refers to. The former Trump administration came up with a broad interpretation of this term and the main purpose behind this was to limit the eligibility number for the individuals applying for a green card or other immigrant visas.
Difference Between I944 and I-864 Affidavit of Support
A lot of people get confused between Form i944 and the I-864 Affidavit of support. While the latter is filed by the individual sponsoring your green card (also known as Sponsor) as proof that he or she can support you financially when needed, Form 944 needs to be filled by you to show your financial condition to prove that you will not be dependent on the government for any kind of financial support. USCIS may also consider the I-864 Affidavit of support to decide on whether there are chances of you becoming a public charge in the future.
The individuals who are filing these applications are subjected to the “public charge test” that will extensively scrutinize their personal information related to family, age, health-related details, financial background, education and skills, assets, resources, period of stay in the United States and even the I-864 affidavit of support provided by the petitioner.
In this article we are going to cover more on the USCIS I944, I 944 instructions, who are or were exempted from this form, what is the current situation related to I-944, and more.
Who Is a Public Charge and Who Is Exempted From This Process?
A public charge is a mainly dependent person or will become dependent on the government benefits like child care support, public housing, etc. to support themselves and their family after they gain their immigrant status.
There are, however, exemptions to this rule and certain smaller and special groups of people do not have to go through this process of filing and the test. The exempted category of people are – refugees, asylees, victims of human trafficking, U Visa holders, DACA applicants (initial or renewal), individuals applying under the Cuban Adjustment Act, and certain other special categories of people.
What Does USCIS I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency Require You to Provide?
There is an expansive amount of details that the applicant has to fill out in this Form. You need to go through the I944 instructions properly before starting with this. We are going to cover this in a bit. Before that here are some of the areas that you can expect to fill up when you are working on this form.
Information About Your Household
USCIS requires you to provide details that pertain to your household like the number of members living with you, the financial status of each member in your household, their annual income, everyone’s assets, and resources.
When they say household members, it means the applicant’s spouse, children who are unmarried and are less than 21 years and if they are living with the applicant, or any other member who receives at least half of the financial support from the applicant. To be qualified for the application and not get denied, your household’s combined annual income needs to be at least 125% of what the Federal Poverty Guidelines include. If you are on active duty except in training in the US Armed Forces, then it should at least meet the 100% mark of the guidelines.
Information about the assets resources in your household:
Other than the above-mentioned details, the USCIS also requires you to provide information related to the assets you possess and the financial resources you have in your I-944 form. These would include savings, net cash, bonds and stocks, retirement savings, real estate holdings, bonds, annuities, and other forms of assets and sources of money.
Debts, liabilities, and bankruptcies:
You need to provide all your liabilities and debts along with proper documentation and descriptions that were needed in the USCIS I944. These can be loans, home loans, car loans, taxes that haven’t been paid, supporting child and spouse, credit cards, etc.
If you have filed bankruptcy at any point in time, you should provide the details explaining the circumstances as to what made you do so.
One of the very unusual requirements, USCIS requires the applicant’s credit history and credit score along with the application for a green card. If the report shows a negative history, then you will have to explain to the Agency about the situation. In case you do not have a credit score, then you will need to prove to the system that you do not have one.
One of the vital parts of the I-944 application is to provide any documentary proof related to any form of public benefits that you might have ever received or are granted to receive irrespective of the duration and the amount. You can provide receipts, certificates, or other proofs. There is a lot of detailed explanation that you may have to give in this section including any exceptions that you fall under.
You are expected to give details of whether you have US Health insurance. You need to attach all the evidence and provide details about the tax credit, the annual insurance premium, etc.
Education, Language and Occupation
Form 944 asks for your educational details, language, and occupational skills, and the I-140 receipt number. You are expected to attach copies or evidence of your educational certifications, licenses, internships, training, etc.
If you are retired you need to provide the details of your retirement like the date you retired, any retirement plans and benefits that you have, etc.
These are some of the many other pieces of information that the I 944 instructions ask you to provide to determine if you are going to be a financial burden on the US government or not. Depending on this the Agency decides whether your application or petition gets a green signal or is denied.
Now that you know what USCIS i944 is and how it can impact a person’s application for adjustment of status, here’s an overview of how to file the I-944 form.
A complete guide to how you can fill up i-944 and how you can file this properly
Before you move to the guide, you must note that if you are in the United States and are applying for a permanent resident/ green card, you will have to fill up the USCIS I944 without which the agency will not process your green card application. However, if you are in a foreign country and are applying for adjustment of status from your home country, then you need not fill up this form. Since you are going by filling through “consular processing” USCIS will use some other way to decide whether you are going to be a public charge or not.
Form 944 is extremely comprehensive and requires a substantial amount of time and patience to complete. Here’s a step-by-step process that will make this process a little easy if not less time-consuming-
Read the I 944 instructions thoroughly
The very first step, that goes without saying, is to go through the I 944 instructions properly so you do not miss out on any critical information or instruction mentioned on the form. Missing out on providing crucial information may cause a delay in your Adjustment of Status processing or even denial of the application.
Complete the Form I-944:
If you have finished going through the I 944 instructions, one has to start filling up the form. The form is divided into 9 main sections and each section requires them to fill out the information about themselves, their family members/ relatives, and their household. They will have to complete the form in English and enter the dates in US format – month/day/year. Here’s what one can expect in the 9 different parts:
Part 1: Information about you (the applicant):
The form requests complete biographic information about you that includes your full name, date of birth, gender, the name of your parents, your age, etc. You will also have to provide some immigration-related data like the Alien Number (A-number) that you may find in the I-797 (Notice of Action) or the ID cards. If you have a USCIS online account, you will have to provide the online registration number in form 944 which you will be able to retrieve on the profile page when you log in.
Part 2: Family Status (your household)
In this section, you have to provide information related to your household and family. You need to provide biographic information about the family members who live in your household with you. This includes-
- Your spouse if you are married provided they live with you.
- Your children, if you have any. (if they are under 21 years of age, not married, and live with you)
- Your children (if they are under 21, unmarried, do not physically live with you but you provide for them or need to be provided 50% of the financial support under various circumstances).
- Your husband, wife, or any other relative who does not physically live with you but you provide for. This means someone who you have listed in your tax returns.
- Anyone who provides you half of your financial support and has listed you as a dependent on their tax returns.
- Other members of your family who you support financially.
Part 3: The financial status, assets, and resources of your and your family members
Be prepared to enter a lot of detailed information about you and your family members’ financial situation, all the assets that you, or they own, or other sources of income. This section of form 944 is the longest one and evaluating each of the family members’ assets, liabilities, income, resources is going to be pretty expansive. The various elements include cars, real estate holdings, mortgages, credit card debts, bankruptcy, other financial assets, and liabilities, etc.
USCIS i944 needs you to provide information from you and your household members’ income tax returns filed in the current year and the previous year. In case you do not have information about the current IRS tax returns, you can provide the details from the previous year’s.
A Proof of Income and the Updates That Come Along With It
Now, there are chances that you do not fall under the taxable income category and don’t need to file taxes. This, however, doesn’t favor the fact that your household supports itself. You need to prove that the gross earnings of your household are at least 125% of the United States Poverty Guidelines as set for your home state. If you are a veteran or are currently in the US Armed Forces as active-duty military personnel, you need to prove that your total household income is 100% of the poverty guidelines.
If your household income doesn’t meet the given requirements then that is considered negative and USCIS may deny your application. However, if they meet the requirements, then the decision may be in your favor. That said, the preferred household income according to the Agency that can make your case on the extreme positive end is 250%.
You also need to share if you earned any monetary benefit out of any illegal activity or as a public benefit or income coming from any other resources.
People need to be transparent about their assets and liabilities and give detailed explanations wherever asked for or needed. The last parts of this section will need you to mention any kind of fee waivers that you ever had on any of the USCIS forms, any public benefits that you have received at any point in time, etc.
Once you are done with this section, you move on to the next section about your education-related details.
Part 4: Your education and skills:
This part of I-944 is aimed towards learning about your educational qualifications, the various occupational skills that you possess to access your potential in getting employment. It is a huge advantage if you have applied for an employment-based green card. In that case, you will have to mention the USCIS-approved I-140 receipt number.
If you are applying for a marriage green card or others, then you will have to provide the list of the schools, colleges, or universities that you have attended along with proper evidence like the certificates, transcripts, etc. in case you are not able to produce them then you will have to explain as to why these documents are not available.
You need to provide proper evidence like certificates, or other documents that can prove that you have a certain occupational or language skill. USCIS considers these as strong proofs that can make your case better and secure.
Also whether you are retired or not, you should mention your status in the I-944 and if you are a caregiver or a student. Failing to provide proper job history can affect your application negatively.
Part 5: Declarant’s Statement, Contact Information, Certification, and Signature:
Once you have entered all the information as per the I 944 instructions, you will have to declare that all the information you’ve provided is true. Enter your contact information clearly with your name and sign the form. Remember that USCIS is going to return the I-944 to you for signing if you miss that out.
Part 6, 7, and 8:
Contact information of the Interpreter, and another person who has filled the form for you:
You need to pay attention to this part here. In case you have taken the help of an interpreter to fill out this form, you will have to leave Part 8 blank and do not sign it in advance. This is because you will sign it in front of the USCIS representative during the time of the interview. But the interpreter needs to fill in his/ her details and sign on the form.
Part 9: Additional Information:
This part is provided for you to include any additional information related to any of the parts above that you couldn’t add due to lack of space. If you need more space, you can print more sheets of part 9 and add them to form 944. Make sure that you use only the part 9 sheet to feed in additional information because USCIS will not accept information that is written on a regular blank sheet.
Now that you are done with the major part of the USCIS I944 form, it’s time to move on to the next step.
Putting the supporting documents from the checklist together
You will have to provide all the supporting documents and the evidence for the information that you have mentioned in I-944. Remember the more documentary evidence you provide, the more positive it is for your case. To make sure that you do not miss out on any document, it is best to make a checklist and gather the documents accordingly.
Filing of Form 944:
Once you are ready with the application package, you will have to submit it along with the I-485 (application for Adjustment of Status). There is no filing fee involved in filing this I-944 form except for what you pay for your green card application. Also, there is no fixed processing time for this application. Since you will submit it along with the I-485, it will take around the same time frame of about 10 to 12 months of processing.
What is the Public Charge Test, is it still in effect? What is the history of the Public Charge rule in the US?
The public charge test is the evaluation that the subject immigrants who apply for the green card or other temporary visa need to undergo by filing the I-944 (Declaration of self-sufficiency) form. As mentioned earlier, through this form, USCIS scrutinizes your financial background, details about your household extensively to understand whether or not you are likely to become a ‘public charge’ or a financial burden to the government in the future.
However, the good thing is, this new public charge policy brought in by the Trump administration and the Department of Homeland Security was completely terminated by the courts on March 9, 2021. This means that the applicants filing for the Adjustment of Status whether from their home country or the US do not have to file Form 944 or DS-5540 anymore.
While this policy had affected many individuals directly or indirectly given the rules entailed in it, it was made sure that the affected individuals were informed about this and their access to various public benefits for themselves and their families were restored. It is now safe for the immigrants and their families to use various benefits like the healthcare programs, food programs, housing benefits, cash assistance programs that they are qualified for. It has also been decided that the immigrant cases will now be determined based on the ‘1999 public charge rule’.
History of the Public Charge rule, 1999
Under the 1999 public charge rule, the USCIS officers had put into effect the guideline that a public charge is an individual who relies on the government to take care of themselves and their family. It is either through the use of public cash assistance or to consign long term care under government expense that includes:
- State and local cash assistance programs that include general assistance, supplemental security programs, etc.
- Public housing assistance under federal law.
- Medicaid or other healthcare programs and facilities that excludes emergency services, pregnant women, new mothers, or children under 21 years of age.
- Other welfare programs like TANF (Temporary Assistance to needy families).
New Rule Update
The most important thing is, unlike the new public charge rule that was started on February 24, 2020, under the older policy, a very less number of immigration applications were rejected based on public charge. The reasons were-
Firstly – Congress has already restrained most of the immigrants from using the Government welfare so there is no way that there will be prior use of these benefits.
Secondly- most of the green card applicants need to have a sponsor who would either the spouse who is a US citizen or a family member who is a citizen or a permanent resident. They should be able to produce sufficient evidence that they are capable of and will be supporting the applicant financially so they are not dependent on the government in the future.
This is why most of the applicants were able to clear the public charge obstruction through their sponsor’s Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) along with other evidence showing that their sponsor’s income met the Federal Poverty guidelines requirement of 125%.
The bottom line is applying for adjustment of status or immigration benefits is a cumbersome process in most cases. While the good news is the new Public Charge rule has been eliminated from the system, it makes the process a little less stressful. Nevertheless, this is not the only reason why an application could/ can get rejected right? Providing concrete supporting documents for everything that you vouch for in the application form and what USCIS requests you for is paramount for your petition to get a green signal. It is always best to go for an immigration attorney (if you can afford to), to make the process flow smoothly.
Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs):
No, the USCIS I944 is not in effect anymore. The new policy was terminated by the courts on April 9, 2021. This means that the green card applicants and other temporary visa applicants who were earlier subjected to this rule no longer have to fill this form while submitting their immigration petition.
The I-944 didn’t affect the green card processing much but the COVID pandemic did which is why it was taking around 10 to 29 months to get the decision from the USCIS rather than the usual timeline of 10 to 13 months. However, things are gradually normalizing and the USCIS is working on all the backlogs to get back to the regular processing time of the applications.