March 10, 2021

Restrictive 2019 Public Charge Rule No Longer In Effect

On March 9, 2021, Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), announced that that U.S. Government is no longer defending the 2019 public charge rule in court. This rule expanded public charge determinations to disqualify individuals who had been beneficiaries of various government programs from receiving immigration benefits. The Justice Department has also dismissed its pending appeals in the Supreme Court and Seventh Circuit related to the rule. Since then the government appeals related to the rule have been dismissed in the courts and the public charge rule will no longer be in effect.

On March 10, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated the “Public Charge” section of its website and stated that on or after March 9, 2021, applicants and petitioners should not provide information required by the 2019 Public Charge rule. Applicants for adjustment of status should no longer submit Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency and applicants and petitioners should not answer questions related to public benefits on Form I-129 or Form I-539. If this information has already been provided, USCIS states that it will not consider it.

With the 2019 Public Charge rule no longer applied, DHS is reverting to the 1999 Interim Field Guidance, which was in place prior to the 2019 Public Charge rule. Under this guidance, CBS News reports that officials are instructed “to only deem immigrants public charges if they were receiving government cash benefits or long-term institutionalized care.” CBS News also reported that, as under the previous administration, receipt of vaccinations or medical treatment for COVID-19 would not be considered in public charge determinations.

The controversial public charge rule was introduced by the Trump administration in 2019, and was criticized by immigration advocates as a “wealth test” that effectively made legal immigration pathways more inaccessible for poor immigrants.  A nationwide injunction prevented DHS from enforcing it until a Supreme Court decision in January 2020. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began implementing the rule in February 2020.  During his first two weeks in office, President Biden signed an executive order that called for a review of the legal immigration system, including the public charge rule.