Author: Jameel Manji, Founder, Manji Law, P.C.
Mr. Manji founded Manji Law in 2016 to follow his passion of helping people navigate the complicated immigration system. Mr. Manji graduated from Georgia State University College of Law and received Master of Taxation from the Georgia State’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business. Published on: February 09, 2023.
Manji Law is your complete immigration solution. If you are seeking assistance with the Atlanta Immigration Court, please give us a call. Manji Law can provide valuable insight, assistance, and a guiding hand to help you achieve your goals.
An Overview of Form I-485
Form 1-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, is an important document for those seeking to become lawful permanent residents of the United States. Completing Form 1-485 allows immigrants to apply for a green card and is a crucial step to becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
It is evident from the issue of public charge that immigration law can be complex and subject to change. In fact, immigration law is one of the most subject to frequent revisions from a legal perspective because of the political nature of immigration in the United States.
If you are considering an adjustment of status through marriage or have any other immigration needs, consider contacting a competent and committed Georgia immigration firm for legal advice. Manji Law P.C. offers a complete range of citizenship and immigration services. Professional legal advisors keep up with the nuances and legal definitions while helping you on your path to immigration.
Let’s examine “public charge” and how it could affect your application for adjustment of status or lawful permanent residence.
What Is Meant by Public Charge?
As recently as December 23, 2022, the new Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility rule went into effect. It restores the principles of public charge grounds to the pre-Trump era.
The term “public charge” refers to non-citizens who are likely to become financially dependent on the government. In that case, they may be considered inadmissible and have their application denied.
Being classified as a public charge is equivalent to being considered a liability to the state. Understandably, the state will not be keen on taking in immigrants who will become state liabilities. All family-based green card and adjustment of status applications are subject to public charge inadmissibility determinations. Note that a family member’s use of public programs cannot affect your future immigration applications. The question then becomes, what circumstances render an applicant a public charge?
What Does USCIS Consider a Public Charge?
A person is considered a public charge when they have become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence. What does this mean? This means that they may have received assistance from the government. However, a restricted range of assistance qualifies, and not all government assistance renders an applicant a public charge.
What Services Are Affect the Public Charge Test?
Public assistance programs or government subsistence may include long-term institutionalized care paid for by Medicaid and public local cash assistance programs for income maintenance, such as:
- SSI (Supplemental Security Income)
- TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)
- General Assistance for income maintenance
Also, government subsistence programs and public benefits outside the definition above may have been received by the applicant but will not render them a public charge. Therefore, the following don’t count:
- Special supplemental nutrition program
- Non-cash benefits
- Disaster relief
- Unemployment insurance payments
- Tax credits
- Stimulus checks
If the applicant has received the assistance outlined above, they may be deemed to constitute a public charge and be denied by the immigration officers. This can seem complicated. Discussing your concerns with a qualified immigration benefits counselor may be helpful.
Who Is Exempt from Public Charge?
Specific categories of people have been exempted by law from public charge classification. They include the following:
- Special immigrant juveniles
- Afghan and Iraqi interpreters
- Afghan and Iraqi nationals
- V.A.W.A. self-petitioners
Does Public Charge Affect a Green Card in 2022?
USCIS checks most non-citizens applying to become lawful permanent residents for public charge inadmissibility.
The public charge rule that was still in effect in 2022 was less strict than the earlier version. That rule forced immigrant applicants to qualify on several income and wealth-based criteria and was widely criticized.
At the time, most of the adjustment of status applicants had to submit Form I-944, which was a declaration of self-sufficiency. Suppose an applicant was found to fall short on Form I-944 but was otherwise admissible. In that case, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security could exercise discretion and invite the applicant to post a suitable and proper security bond under Form I-945.
Supporting Evidence for Form I-485
Form I-485 requires an affidavit of support, Form I-864, by a financial sponsor for all family-based petitions. It’s used to show that the applicant has adequate financial support and is not likely to rely on the U.S. government for financial aid, thereby providing USCIS with possible evidence to satisfy them that the applicant is not a public charge.
Form I-485 has been updated, and all applications after December 23, 2022, require the new form, or they will be rejected. In addition, the amended form now includes further questions aimed at establishing the public charge element.
Additional Questions Added to Form I-485
Additional questions aimed at assessing public charge are complex and new. The questions include the following:
Is the applicant subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility?
What is the size of the applicant’s household?
What is the applicant’s total annual income?
What is the total value of the applicant’s assets?
What is the total value of the applicant’s “household liabilities?
What is the highest degree or level of school the applicant has completed?
Please provide the “certifications, licenses, skills obtained through work experience.”
Have you ever received S.S.I., T.A.N.F., or state/local/tribal/territorial cash assistance?
Have you ever received long-term institutionalization at government expense?
Some questions are somewhat leading and need to be answered correctly, especially around your financial status, or you could be classified as a public charge.
Consider hiring a skilled immigration attorney if you need help completing the form.
Reasons Form I-485 Gets Rejected
In addition to the applicant being classified as a public charge, other common reasons for the rejection of the I-485 include the following:
- Medical exam failure
- Certain criminal violations
- Immigration violations
- Noncompliance with the application requirements
- Failure to Attend Appointments
- Failure to provide proof of employment
- Failure to provide evidence of a family relationship
Can the USCIS Deny an I-485 Petition Without an Interview?
If you fail to provide the necessary documentation or your application is grounds for inadmissibility, you may not even reach the interview stage, and your application can be denied.
How Can a Lawyer Help with an I-485 Application
Form I-485 is a complex and highly important document that must be filled out comprehensively and accurately.
Whether you are applying for an adjustment of status or facing a case at the Atlanta Immigration Court, Manji Law P.C. is here to help with a full range of immigration services. Call today for a free consultation and case evaluation.