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Breaking News: Public Charge Rule Put on Hold by District Court Judge

On July 29, 2020, the Southern District of New York’s District Court enjoined USCIS and State Department personnel from enforcing the Public Charge Rule (84 FR 41292, 8/14/19) during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pause on enforcement of the Public Charge Rule is nationwide and applies as of July 29, 2020.

USCIS announced on July 31, 2020, that it will adhere to the ruling, declaring: “As long as the July 29,2020, SDNY decision is in effect, USCIS will apply the [previous rule] that was in place before the Public Charge Rule was implemented on Feb. 24, 2020 … in other words, we will not apply the public benefit condition.”

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York also issued a separate order on July 29, 2020, granting an injunction that prevents the government from applying the 2018 FAM Revisions, the DOS Interim Final Rule on Visa Ineligibility on Public Charge Grounds (84 FR 54996, 10/11/19), or the President’s October 4, 2019 Proclamation, Suspension of Entry of Immigrants Who Will Financially Burden the United States Healthcare System in Order to Protect the Availability of Healthcare Benefits for Americans (84 FR 53991, 10/9/19) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Practically speaking, the impact of the ruling will be felt far and wide as many U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants and nonimmigrants will benefit from forgoing the burdensome gathering and submission of voluminous financial documents and forms pertaining to the Public Charge ruling.

USCIS stated that for applications and petitions that USCIS adjudicates on or after July 29, 2020, it will not consider any information provided by an applicant or petitioner that relates to the Public Charge Rule, including information provided on the Form I-944, or information on the receipt of public benefits in Part 5 on Form I-539, Part 3 on Form I-539A or Part 6 on Form I-129.

USCIS also indicated that it will issue guidance regarding the use of affected forms. In the meanwhile, applicants should not include the Form I-944 or provide information about the receipt of public benefits on Form I-485, Form I-129, or Form I-539/I-539A. Bear mind, the situation is fluid and can change at a moment’s notice, but for now, this is welcome news for applicants properly applying for lawful residency and nonimmigrant status in the U.S. during the global Covid-19 pandemic.

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