What Is Form DS-5540, and How Do You Complete It?

October 30, 2020
What Is Form DS-5540, and How Do You Complete It?

Summary

The new Public Charge Rule requires immigrants to show that they will not become dependent upon public benefits before the U.S. government will approve them to come to the United States. To prove this, immigrants applying from outside of the U.S. need to fill out the U.S. State Department's Form DS-5540, the "Public Charge Questionnaire." This article explains what Form DS-5540 is, how to fill it out, and how to pass the Public Charge Test.


ImmigrationHelp.org can help you check your public charge risk level with our free Risk Estimator tool. We can also help you prepare your immigration paperwork for free. Click the green button above to get started, or read on to learn more.

This article is not legal advice and is not intended to replace a lawyer. Its goal is to help you learn more about Form DS-5540and the new Public Charge Rule before you apply for status.


Overview

All about the State Department's "Public Charge Questionnaire" Form

What is the new Public Charge Rule?


On February 24th, 2020, the Trump administration implemented the new Public Charge Rule under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The new rule was a way for the Department of Homeland Security and other U.S. immigration authorities to determine whether an immigration applicant is likely to be a financial liability to the U.S. government. The rule was temporarily halted due to the coronavirus pandemic but is now fully in force.

 

Under the new Public Charge Rule, people applying for Green Cards have to provide additional evidence that they will be able to support themselves financially in the U.S. This requirement is separate from the Green Card sponsorship process, where the Green Card sponsor has to submit evidence that they can support the Green Card applicant financially. The new rule requires proof of financial stability from both the Green Card sponsor and the Green Card applicant. 


To provide this proof, people applying for Green Card have to submit one of two forms depending on whether they are applying from within the U.S. (adjustment of status) or outside of the U.S. (consular processing). If you are applying from inside the U.S., you must submit Form I-944 in addition to Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. If you are applying from outside the U.S., you must submit Form DS-5540 in addition to Form I-864. You can read about the Department of State's guidance on the new public charge rule on their website.


After collecting this information, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) officer will weigh factors like household income, public benefits received in the past, and the ability to work in the U.S. to determine the immigration applicant's public charge risk. 


The new Public Charge Rule is complicated, but we've got your back! You can check your public charge risk for free with our public risk estimator tool.


If you want to learn even more, check out our breakdown of the new Public Charge Rule.


We can also help you complete the new Public Charge forms for free. Click the button below to get started.

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What is Form DS-5540 used for?


As part of the U.S. State Department's guidance on the new Public Charge Rule, everyone applying for a Green Card by consular processing, and many people applying for non-immigrant visas, must submit Form DS-5540. The DS-5540 is officially known as the Public Charge Questionnaire


The State Department introduced the Public Charge Questionnaire in February 2020 to collect information to determine whether immigrants are financially stable. Consular officers require the DS-5540 in addition to the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support that each Green Card applicant applying from outside the U.S. must submit with their application to show that their Green Card sponsor can support them financially.


DS-5540 is four pages long and asks questions that the State Department uses to determine whether an immigration application falls under the public charge ground of inadmissibility. You can read more about the public charge ground of inadmissibility on our website.


You can assess your public charge risk at ImmigrationHelp.org. You can also get free help completing Form DS-5540 in our easy web-based application. Click the button below to begin!

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Do I need to file Form DS-5540?

You must file Form DS-5540 if you are applying for a Green Card from outside the U.S., that is, if you are applying for a Green Card by consular processing. Nonimmigrant visa applicants will also need to file Form DS-5540 when they are applying to be in the U.S. temporarily.


You don't have to file the new form if you are exempt from the public charge ground of inadmissibility. Here are a few exceptions to the Public Charge Rule:


  1. Any applicant who is applying based on ties with an active duty military personnel,
  2. Anyone who is applying for the Green Card on humanitarian grounds. I.e., you are seeking refugee or asylum status or applying for the Green Card under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and 
  3. Anyone who is applying for the Green Card under the Cuban Adjustment Act.


Checkout the USCIS policy manual for the complete list of Public Charge exemptions. The State Department also provides guidance on Form DS-5540 exemptions.


Read all you need to know about the new Public Charge rule on our website and assess your public charge risk with our public charge risk estimator tool.


The ImmigrationHelp.org team is ready to help you complete and file Form DS-5540 for free. Click the button below to start our easy web application.

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How do I file Form DS-5540? A step-by-step guide. 


Form DS-5540 is only four pages long, but it can still be intimidating because of how important it is for your immigration application. We understand that, so in this section, we walk you through completing the form, assembling the required supporting documents, and submitting the form.

For more information, you can check out the State Department's guidance on the new public charge rule and its accompanying forms, as well as our article on the public charge.


Step 1) Complete Form DS-5540


The first step in the filing process is to complete Form DS-5540 Public Charge Questionnaire. You can do this by downloading and printing the form from the State Department's website. Better yet, you can use our simple web application to prepare Form DS-5540 quickly and easily


Form DS-5540 has seven parts: 


Part 1: (General) Information about You


In this part, you have to enter your name, age, and U.S. travel history - all the dates on which you have entered and left the U.S. Generally if you are between 18 and 61 years of age, USCIS considers it a positive factor in calculating your public charge risk.


Part 2: Your Health


Part 2 asks whether you have U.S. health insurance coverage. If you don't, it asks you what your plans are for health insurance coverage within 30 days of arriving in the United States.


Part 3: Your Household Size


For this section, you must list your household members and family members who receive cash assistance and financial resources from you. In addition to yourself, you must document any of these that apply to your household:


  • Your spouse, if you have one
  • Your children, if you have some, and if they will be living with you
  • Your children who will not be living with you in the United States but who receive at least 50% of their financial resources from you
  • Anyone who receives at least 50% of their financial resources from you
  • Anyone who provides you with at least 50% of your financial resources
  • Anyone you listed as a dependent on your latest federal income tax returns
  • Anyone who listed you as a dependent on their latest federal income tax returns


Part 4: Your Assets, Resources, and Financial Status


Part 4 is the longest part of the form, spanning about three pages. For Part 4, you have to submit information that paints a detailed picture of your financial situation. This information includes:

1. All U.S. federal income tax returns you have filed in the past three years

2. Information about your income


  • Your current yearly salary in U.S. dollars, 
  • Any income you will continue to receive once you arrive in the U.S.from real estate and rent, 
  • Child support or pension funds outside of the U.S., and 
  • If you have a job lined up for when you arrive in the U.S., provide your employer's contact information and your expected yearly compensation in U.S. dollars.
  • Any debts or liabilities you have, including credit card debt
  • Any assets you have that you haven't listed, include any checking or savings accounts, real estate equity, or securities

3. Information about any U.S. public benefit you have received on or since February 24th, 2020.


This includes any of the following:


  • Income maintenance assistance like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), 
  • Project-based rental assistance ("Section 8" subsidized housing), 
  • The housing choice voucher program, 
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps), and 
  • Medicaid unless you received it 1) In connection with an emergency medical condition, 2) as a pregnant woman in the 60 days following the birth of your child, 3) when you were under 21 years of age, 4) when you were of secondary school age as part of school-based services, or 5) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).


Generally speaking, the more information you give that shows that you are in a stable financial position, the better. If you have additional information about your assets that do not fit on the form, you can include additional sheets that list all of the additional information. You'll need to have the part, section, and question number the information you are submitting supports on each extra sheet that you add.


Part 5 – Education And Skills


This part asks you to provide information about your level of education and any specialized skills and certifications you have for employment. As with other parts of the application, the more highly-skilled you show yourself to be, the more likely it is that USCIS will approve your application. The reason is that USCIS assumes that someone with high education and skills will have an easy time finding work in the U.S.


Part 6 and 7: Preparer and Translator


If you had any assistance with completing the form, either from a translator or from a third-party preparer, you must enter their information in parts 6 and 7 and let them sign at the relevant places. If you prepared your application with our online tools, ImmigrationHelp.org is not your form preparer. We give you the tools needed to prepare your forms yourself rather than prepare them for you as a form preparer.


Step 2) Prepare your supporting documents


Form DS-5540 Document Checklist


You will need to submit proof of the following things with your Form DS-5540: 


1. Current or Future Health Insurance that will cover you in the United States


If you currently have U.S. health insurance coverage, you must include as much of the following that you can:


  • Health insurance card showing coverage beginning and expiration dates
  • A letter from an insurance company on their letterhead or any other evidence document with the insurance company's information that lists your current enrollment date and coverage type
  • A copy of each insurance policy page with the terms and type of coverage


If your U.S. health insurance coverage has not begun, or if you will be getting health insurance coverage soon, you must include 


  • A letter from the insurance company on their letterhead or
  • Any other evidence document with the insurance company's information that lists your name, the insurance coverage type and terms, the start date, and the enrollment date.


If you do not have U.S. health insurance and do not plan to get insurance soon, you must include something that explains how you plan to pay any future medical expenses. Evidence could include:


  • Information provided by a doctor authorized by the U.S. government during the medical examination in the Green Card application process that explains that you are not likely to have future bills
  • If you have a medical condition, a letter from your doctor listing the medical condition and whether it has an impact on your education or employment
  • If you have a medical condition, proof that you have the financial resources to pay for any anticipated medical treatment - either through insurance or with your funds or assets


2. U.S. Federal Tax Return (If applicable)


You must include one of these if you were required to file a U.S. tax return for the most recent tax year:


  • A copy of your complete U.S. federal tax return from the most recent tax year
  • A copy of your IRS tax return transcript from the most recent tax year


3. Income


You must include as many of these as you can:


  • Bank statements showing your income from the past six months. Make sure to highlight all income deposits on the statements.
  • The most recent statements from other income sources like child-support payments, social security benefits, stock dividends, and foreign pension payments
  • Pay stubs from the past six months
  • If you have secured a job that you will begin once you arrive in the U.S., provide your employment offer letter
  • Verification of Employment(VOE) letter if you are currently employed


4. Financial Assets and Resources


You must include the following for any of these that you listed in the financial assets section of the form (Part 4):

Most recent statements for

  • Annuities
  • Retirement accounts
  • Checkings and savings accounts (for the past 12 months)
  • Stocks and bonds (with cash value reflected)
  • Certificates of deposit (C.D.s)
  • Education savings accounts


Evidence of assets that you could easily convert into cash within a year

Evidence must contain all of this information:


  • Name of the asset holder
  • Description of the asset
  • Net cash value of the owner's portion of the asset
  • Proof of ownership


Evidence that you have more than one vehicle

including one of these:


  • The title for each vehicle
  • The loan or lien on each vehicle
  • Kelley Blue Book valuation of each vehicle if you have it


Evidence of real estate holdings


  • Deed (proof of ownership)
  • Recent appraisal by a licensed appraiser
  • The total amount of any loans secured on the property
  • The net value of the property (appraised value minus the total amount of loans)



5. Financial Liabilities


Financial liabilities are unpaid taxes, unpaid child or spousal support, car loans, mortgages, and credit card debt. You must include any of these that apply to you:


  • IRS tax bill - Any of these from the last six months that you paid on time
  • Credit card statements
  • Bank statements
  • Payment confirmations and receipts
  • IRS direct pay confirmations
  • IRS Installment Agreement Request (Form 9465)
  • IRS Payment Voucher (Form 1040-V) with additional documents showing when the liability will end, for example 1) a loan repayment schedule, 2) a 10-year or 30-year mortgage statement, or 3) an IRS Installment Agreement Request (Form 9465)


6. Education


You must include all of these that apply to you:


  • A copy of your high school or secondary school transcripts and diploma, if available. Grades and information must be translated into English as applicable and evaluated to show their U.S. equivalent.
  • A copy of any other educational transcripts and diplomas from after high school or secondary school


7. Occupational Skills, Certificates, or Licenses


You must include all of these that apply to you:


  • A letter from an employer certifying your skills if you work in an occupation like plumbing that may not have official certificates awarded
  • Proof of any officially documented occupational skills


Step 3) File Form DS-5540


Review Form DS-5540 to be sure you have filled it completely and accurately. A complete form will help ensure that you do not delay your application's processing even longer than COVID-19 has already delayed processing times. 


Once you are sure the information is correct and the form is complete, you should include it with the rest of your Green Card application for filing. If you submitted your Green Card application before February 24th, 2020, you should bring your DS-5540 packet with you to your visa interview in case your consular officer requests it.


Form DS-5540 can be complicated, but we can help you prepare it for free with our simple web application. Click the button below to get started.

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What is the filing fee for Form DS-5540?


There is no filing fee for Form DS-5540 itself. You will only have to pay the required fees for any forms you are sending with your DS-5540, as well as whatever charges the postal service or courier you use to submit your application charges. If you use a lawyer, you will have to pay legal fees to the law firm you might have contracted. 


We have written extensively about the new public charge rule and all there is to know about it on our website. Check out our Public Charge article to learn more. If you are curious about your public charge risk, you can find our public charge risk estimator tool.


DS-5540 doesn't have a filing fee, but completing it with a lawyer can be expensive. We can help you confidently prepare Form DS-5540 for free so that you can avoid any complications from mistakes. Click the button below to get started with our easy web application.

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Conclusion


We hope that you found our guide to completing the new Form DS-5540 useful. If you have any questions about the new public charge forms or want to share your experience, we'd love to hear from you. Drop a comment below, and we will reply ASAP!


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