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.
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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.
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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 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:
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.
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.
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:
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 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.
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:
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:
This includes any of the following:
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.
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.
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.
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:
If your U.S. health insurance coverage has not begun, or if you will be getting health insurance coverage soon, you must include
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:
You must include one of these if you were required to file a U.S. tax return for the most recent tax year:
You must include as many of these as you can:
You must include the following for any of these that you listed in the financial assets section of the form (Part 4):
Evidence must contain all of this information:
including one of these:
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:
You must include all of these that apply to you:
You must include all of these that apply to you:
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.
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.
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!