On February 24th, 2020, the USCIS introduced the I-944 form to be filed for all those seeking an adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident in the U.S. You must complete the form if you are a foreigner who is inside the U.S. and are applying for a green card.
The I-944 Declaration of Self Sufficiency is a grueling form to determine if the applicant is likely to receive certain public (welfare) benefits at any time in the future. The form weighs:
positive and negative factors related to your age, health, family status, assets, resources, and financial status, education and skills, prospective immigration status and period of stay.
The main question is whether there is a support network within the family to avoid being a “public charge.” This post outlines some of the information that you and your household will now have to gather and report to the USCIS.
The stakes for completing a thorough and correct application rise with each change to tighten immigration policy. The I-944 vests immigration officers with more power and discretion when reviewing an application for a green card. The I-944 opens the door for the USCIS to take a more in-depth look at all aspects of an applicant’s life and resources. It is still unclear how this will affect those who are applying for an adjustment of status. However, having legal counsel is increasingly important.
What do you do if denied? An experienced immigration lawyer can help position your case for approval, or further action if an immigration officer is unreasonable. Irreversible mistakes often happen when those going through the immigration process. Attorneys think globally and strategically to try and prevent errors and misdirection.
The foreigner is the applicant who signs the I-944. If the foreigner is above the age of 21, or under 21 and married, the foreigner’s household members are:
- The applicant;
- The applicant’s spouse, if residing in the household;
- Their children if under 21 and unmarried;
- People or children who the applicant claims as a dependent, or provides 50% financial support.
- Any individual who provides the applicant with 50% financial support or who claims the applicant as a dependent;
All household members will need to obtain IRS transcripts, if possible.
Minimum Income Requirements
The combined annual gross incomes should meet minimum income requirements based on your household size. If you fall short, you must show that the value of your assets is five (5) times the difference between the poverty line and 125%. However, if you are the child or spouse of a U.S. citizen, your assets can be 3 times the difference. Also, active duty U.S. military who are not in training may target 100% of the poverty guidelines rather than 125%. In all cases, you determine your gross earnings first, and then look to assets to make up any shortfall.
Additionally, this section asks whether any household member’s federal tax returns come from any illegal activity or source (illegal gambling or illegal drug sales). While it is still unclear what it means for the applicant, it could serve as a lightning rod to identify applicants in federally illegal industries, such as marijuana dispensaries or cultivation. Activities surrounding the marijuana industry can trigger a permanent bar from the U.S. because it remains a controlled (illegal) substance under federal laws. Conversely, if the applicant is working under the table and doesn’t report their income to the IRS, then they have no way to prove their income.
Resources and Assets
Household assets are things that can be turned into cash within 12 months. This includes a recently appraised home, minus all mortgages, trust deeds, or liens. For a vehicle to be considered an asset the applicant must own more than one. Some examples of assets include:
- Checking and savings account statements;
- Must provide statements from the bank(s) covering at least 12 months prior to filling out the application;
- Stocks and bonds (cash value)/certificates of deposit;
- Retirement and educational accounts
The applicant must also provide a list of all their personal liabilities and debts, and calculate the total in U.S. dollars.
Additionally, the applicant must provide a U.S. credit report and credit score.
The applicants must report any bankruptcy, in the U.S. or a foreign country. They must also provide evidence of the resolution.
Health, Welfare, Education, and Employment
If the applicant currently has health insurance, they have to include several types of proof. There needs to be evidence if the applicant plans on applying soon for insurance. You must report federally-funded Medicaid in another section.
If you do not have health insurance, you can explain how you plan to pay for anticipated medical costs.
The USCIS will review forms I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record and form DS-2053, Medical Examination for Immigrant or Refugee Applicant, to determine if you have any medical condition that might affect your ability to be self-sufficient.
The applicant must provide application, receipt, or certification of public benefits, regardless of the amount or duration. For benefits received before October 15th, 2019, the applicant will only need to report receipt of SSI. cash, TANF, General Assistance, and benefits received for long-term institutionalization.
The applicant is required to report a detailed educational history. They must indicate whether they completed high school and if not then report up to what year they completed. Documentation of credit hours is required If no degree or certificate was awarded. The applicant can report occupational skills in this section.
The USCIS will review the I-485 form for employment information. The applicant must provide a statement if they are currently unemployed because they are the primary caretaker for a child or a disabled or elderly person.
The I-944 is a thorough examination of all aspects of an applicant’s ability to be self-sufficient. It evaluates what kind of risk they pose of becoming a public charge. Each application must be extremely thorough, accurate, and organized. An experienced immigration attorney can take the time and diligence necessary to correctly file and understand this new form.
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