The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposes to prescribe how it determines whether a noncitizen is inadmissible to the United States under section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) because they are likely at any time to become a public charge.
Noncitizens who seek adjustment of status or a visa, or who are applicants for admission, must establish that they are not likely at any time to become a public charge, unless Congress has expressly exempted them from this ground of inadmissibility or has otherwise permitted them to seek a waiver of inadmissibility.
Under this proposed rule, a noncitizen would be considered likely at any time to become a public charge if they are likely at any time to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or long-term institutionalization at government expense. In August of 2019, DHS issued a different rule on this topic, which is no longer in effect.
This proposed rule, if finalized, would implement a different policy than the August 2019 Final Rule.
DHS seeks to administer section 212(a)(4) of the INA, 8 USC 1182(a)(4), in a manner that will be clear and comprehensible for officers as well as for noncitizens and their families and will lead to fair and consistent adjudications, thereby mitigating the risk of unequal treatment of similarly situated individuals. DHS proposes to define the term “likely at any time to become a public charge” in regulation and to identify the types of public benefits that would be considered as part of the public charge inadmissibility determination. DHS also proposes to establish general principles regarding consideration of current and past receipt of public benefits in public charge inadmissibility determinations.
Additionally, DHS proposes the factors that DHS would consider in prospectively determining, under the totality of the circumstances framework, whether an applicant for admission or adjustment of status before DHS is inadmissible under the public charge ground. DHS proposes to amend existing information collections submitted with applications for adjustment of status to that of a lawful permanent resident to include questions relevant to the statutory minimum factors. DHS also proposes to require that all written denial decisions issued by USCIS to applicants reflect consideration of each of the statutory minimum factors, as well as the Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA where required, consistent with the standards set forth in the proposed rule, and specifically articulate the reasons for the officer's determination.
On Aug. 14, 2019, DHS issued a different rule on the public charge ground of inadmissibility, which is no longer in effect. The 2019 Final Rule expanded DHS's definition of “public charge,” and was associated with a heavy direct paperwork burden on applicants and adjudicators. The 2019 Final Rule was also associated with widespread indirect effects, primarily with respect to those who were not even subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility, such as U.S. citizen children in mixed-status households. Notwithstanding these widespread indirect effects, during the time that the 2019 Final Rule was in place, of the 47,555 applications for adjustment of status to which the rule was applied, DHS issued only 3 denials (which were subsequently reopened and approved) and 2 Notices of Intent to Deny (which were ultimately rescinded, and the applications were approved) based on the totality of the circumstances public charge inadmissibility determination under section 212(a)(4)(A)-(B) of the INA, 8 USC 1182(a)(4)(A)-(B).
This proposed rule, if finalized, would implement a different policy than the 2019 Final Rule. As discussed at greater length below, DHS believes that, in contrast to the 2019 Final Rule, this proposed rule would effectuate a more faithful interpretation of the statutory concept of “likely at any time to become a public charge”; avoid unnecessary burdens on applicants, adjudicators, and benefits-granting agencies; and mitigate the possibility of widespread “chilling effects” with respect to individuals disenrolling or declining to enroll themselves or family members in public benefits programs for which they are eligible, especially by individuals who are not subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility.