What Is Form I-944, and How Do You Complete It?

October 23, 2020
What Is Form I-944, 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 for a U.S. Visa or Green Card. To prove this, immigrants who are applying from inside of the U.S. have to fill out Form I-944, the "declaration of self-sufficiency." This article explains what Form I-944 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 I-944 and the new Public Charge Rule before applying for status.


Overview

All about USCIS Form I-944

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 for a U.S. Visa or Green Card. To prove this, immigrants who are applying from inside of the U.S. have to fill out Form I-944, the "declaration of self-sufficiency." This article explains what Form I-944 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 I-944 and the new Public Charge Rule before applying for status.


Check your risk and prepare your forms

What is the new Public Charge Rule?


The new Public Charge Rule was introduced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on February 24, 2020. It is an additional inadmissibility criteria that the Trump administration uses to to decide whether to grant mmigration benefits to would-be immigrants. The new rule makes it even harder for immigrants to live and work in the United States.


The Public Charge rule assesses whether an immigration applicant is likely to rely on the U.S. government for financial support once they have immigration benefits. This assessment looks at  whether an applicant has received public benefits like food stamps in the past and whether they might need financial help in the future based on their financial status and employability. Immigrants will provide all of this information on the Form I-944 Declaration of Self-Sufficiency along with their immigration application.


Although the Public Charge Rule went into effect in February 2020, a federal court prevented the rule from being enforced until September 22, 2020. There is still a ban on the rule's enforcement for consular green card applications (submitted from outside of the U.S.). All other green card applicants must submit the new Form I-944 with their applications. If you applied for a green card between February 24, 2020, and September 22, 2020, USCIS will reach out to ask you to complete and submit Form I-944 unless you have submitted one already.


You can read more about the new Public Charge Rule on our website. 


We can help you find out what your public charge risk is for free using our free web application. When you are ready, we can also help you prepare your application paperwork for free. To get started, click the button below.


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What is Form I-944 used for?


Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency is a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) form that helps the U.S. government identify whether an immigrant can support themselves financially. According to the new Public Charge rule, if you cannot support yourself financially in the U.S., USCIS can deny your immigration application on public charge grounds.  


The U.S. government uses Form I-944 to determine whether anyone submitting an adjustment of status application is likely to become a public charge. A public charge is someone who relies on government-funded benefits like public housing and child support. You can assess your public charge risk with our free estimator. Evaluating your public charge risk will give you a sense whether you should apply, as well as any additional information that would be helpful evidence to include in your application.


Form I-944 should not be confused with Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. The person sponsoring your green card application completes Form I-864 to prove to the U.S. government that they can support you financially. You must now also submit Form I-944 as a snapshot of your financial situation to prove that you won't become a financial burden on the U.S. government.


If you would like some help with completing and submitting the new Form I-944, we are happy to help you do that for free! All you need to do is click the button below to get started.

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Do I need to file Form I-944?


If you seek to adjust status to a green card (if you are applying for a Green Card from inside the U.S.) USCIS requires you to submit Form I-944 with your green card application. USCIS will not process your green card application without the new Form I-944. If you submitted an application for adjustment of status to USCIS without Form I-944 between February 24, 2020, and September 22, 2020, when the final rule was on hold, you will have to submit Form I-944 ASAP so that USCIS can complete the processing of your application.


Green card applicants applying from outside the U.S. do not have to file Form I-944 with their green card application. For this type of green card application called “consular processing,” USCIS will use a different form and process  to determine if an applicant passes the public charge test. We’ll discuss this process later in this article.


You can read a detailed explanation of the new Public Charge Rule and what it means for your immigration application on our website. If you are curious about your public charge risk, you can find out what it is with our public charge risk estimator tool.


We can help you complete and submit the new Form I-944 for free with our simple web app. Click the button below to get started.

Check your risk and prepare your forms

How do I file Form I-944? A step-by-step guide. 


Form I-944 is new and lengthy, so it's normal to be confused about how to file it or how USCIS uses the information it requests on the form. The goal of this section is to guide you through the entire filing process step-by-step.


Step 1) Complete Form I-944

The first step to filing your Declaration of Self-Sufficiency to USCIS is to complete Form I-944. The form has 9 major parts, with each requesting specific information about you, your relatives, and your household. You must complete the form in English and enter any dates using the U.S. format of month/day/year.


Part 1: Information About You

Part 1 of the form collects information about you. It asks for biographic details like your name, date of birth, gender, parents' names, etc. It also asks for some identifying immigration data like your Alien Registration Number (A-number) that USCIS gave you at the beginning of your immigration process. You can find your A-number on any correspondence, ID cards or Notice of Action (Form I-797) from USCIS. You must also provide your USCIS online registration number if you have a USCIS online account. You can find your USCIS online registration number on your profile page when you sign in.


Part 2: Family Status (Your Household)

This part asks for information about your household. You have to list everyone who lives with you. In addition to yourself, you must include:

  • Your spouse, if you are married and if they live with you
  • Your children, if you have any, if they are not married, and if they are under age 21
  • Anyone else that you list as a dependent on your tax return
  • Anyone else who lists you as their dependent on their tax return
  • Anyone else that you provide substantial financial and general assistance to
  • Anyone else who provides substantial financial and general assistance to you


Part 3: Your and Your Household Members' Assets, Resources, and Financial Status

Part 3 is the longest and most important part of the form, and it assesses your and your household's financial situation. It requires you to provide a snapshot of your household's financial position by evaluating each member's income, assets, and liabilities. This includes things like real estate, cars, personal loans, car loans, credit card debt, and other financial assets and obligations.


USCIS wants to see that your household has a total income of at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for your home state. For veterans and active duty service personnel, the total household income must be 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. This income amount depends not only on what the numbers are for the state you live in but also on your household's size. The Federal Poverty Guidelines list the exact amounts for every location per household size. If your household income falls under 125% (or 100% if you are service personnel), you will have to list assets to make up for the difference. These assets must be five times the difference between your income and the amount at 125% or 100% poverty guideline. 


Depending on your household income and the cash value of the assets you enter onto this part of the form, USCIS will decide whether your financial status is a positive or negative factor in calculating your public charge risk. If your household income is below the poverty guideline for your state and household size, and you also do not have enough assets to make up the difference, USCIS will determine that as a negative factor and probably reject your application on those grounds alone. If your household income and assets meet the poverty guidelines for your state and household size, USCIS considers that a positive factor. If your income and assets significantly exceed these guidelines, USCIS considers this a heavily positive factor. While a household income at 125% is less risky, USCIS generally prefers for your household income to be at 250% for it to be weighed as a heavily positive factor for your application.


Item 1

You will need information from each household member's Internal Revenue Service (IRS) income tax returns filed in the current or previous tax year to complete this portion. If you or your household member do not have tax returns from the current tax year, you are allowed to use information from the previous year's return or from a foreign tax return you received.


From the tax return, you must enter the annual gross income on this portion of Form I-944. Your annual gross income is your total income before tax deduction. It is on line 7 of your Form 1040 tax return, and line 1 of your Form 1040-EZ tax return. You can copy the amount there directly onto Form I-944.


If you or your household member did not file tax returns or were not required to file tax returns, you must explain why. You could use the annual income figure listed in your Social Security Statement or the income figure listed in item 1 of your W-2 earnings statement to show that you or your household member did not earn enough to have to file tax returns in the past three years.


Items 2, 3, 4, and 5

For these sections, USCIS wants to know if any of the income you entered before was earned from criminal activity or as a public benefit. Income from criminal activity will most likely cause USCIS to reject your application.


Public benefits include things like Medicaid and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. USCIS will deduct any such amount received from public benefits from your income to make their public charge determination on your application. In most cases, receiving Public benefits Within the relevant time frame will cause USCIS to reject your application. 

USCIS does not count premium tax credit for subsidized health insurance (Obamacare) as a public benefit. 


Item 6, 7, and 8

These sections are for entering information about any extra income you receive that is not listed in Item 1 and is also not included in your tax returns. If you are a minor receiving financial assistance from your parents, you can list that here. Note that you will need to provide additional supporting documents for every income stream that you report on Form I-944.


Item 9

For this section, you must list all of your household's assets that can be sold or liquidated. Liquidated means that the asset could be  turned into cash within the next 12 months. Things like real estate holdings (not counting outstanding mortgages or loans), bank accounts, stocks, savings, and investment accounts, will count for this section. Any foreign-held assets must be converted into a U.S. dollar cash value and listed on the form. For any item you list here, you will need to provide evidence documents like property deeds or bank statements that have been valid for at least a year. If there are any outstanding loans or mortgages concerning these assets, you must list those as well and provide evidence to support them.


Item 10

If you have any liabilities or debts, you must enter them in this section. These would include things like credit card debt, mortgages, tax any loans owed to any person or enterprise. For each of these, you must include documentation when submitting Form I-944 to USCIS. If you have no liabilities or debt, USCIS will count this as a positive factor for calculating your public charge risk. If you have liabilities or debt, USCIS will count it as a negative factor for calculating your public charge risk.


Item 11, 12, and 13

This section asks about your credit record and credit score. You will need to include a credit report with Form I-944 to complete this section. The credit report contains historical information about how you repay money you borrow and lists your credit score. Your credit score is a number that either increases or decreases depending on how you pay your bills and loans. You can get a credit report for free once a year from one of the three main credit agencies — TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian.


If you only recently arrived in the U.S. and do not have a credit card, you may not have a credit score or credit report. In this case, you can provide other information that shows that you are financially responsible. This includes evidence like invoices and invoice receipts from bills that you paid on time.


USCIS considers having bad credit as a negative factor and having good or mid-to-high credit as a positive factor for your Public Charge Test.


Item 14

If you have ever declared bankruptcy, you must list that in this section. It is not clear how much USCIS weighs bankruptcies in its public charge assessments. If you have a bankruptcy in your past, though, you must provide necessary details about the bankruptcy. The most important evidence to provide is proof that a court has given you a bankruptcy discharge.


Item 15

For this section, you'll have to answer questions about health insurance. If you have health insurance, you must provide information about your premium amount and whether you received any Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies to help with the coverage. You must include evidence of your insurance coverage. This could include your health insurance card if it has the start and end dates of your coverage, a letter from your insurance provider, or something similar that lists your coverage's start and end dates.


If you do not have health insurance, you have to explain how you will pay any health bills that may arise. This includes proving that you registered for coverage yet to begin or showing that you have the money to pay any future bills.


Items 16-25

In these sections, you must list any public benefits you have ever received. There are nine public benefits that USCIS will consider under the new Public Charge Rule. USCIS will consider an applicant's past use or possible future use of any public benefits for more than 12 months total within 36 months as a public charge ground of inadmissibility. If you have used any of these benefits in the relevant time period, USCIS will automatically deny your application.


Four of the nine benefits under the new rule are cash benefits that USCIS has always considered. These are:

  1. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  2. Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
  3. Institutionalization for long-term care
  4. State or local general assistance or general relief


The new Public Charge Rule now includes these five benefits. If in a three year period, you used any of these five benefits for up to 12 months (combined) or more, USCIS will automatically deny your application on public charge grounds. You should still list any of these that you have used in the past:


  1. Medicaid
  2. Public housing
  3. Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP), a.k.a food stamps
  4. Section 8 Choice Voucher Program
  5. Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance


Green Card applicants generally do not qualify for many of these benefits and will usually not have any past use to report. USCIS does not consider the use of public benefits of children under 21, pregnant women, and new mothers as a negative factor. People who received Medicaid connected with a medical emergency, veterans, and active-duty service personnel are exempt from the Public Charge Rule. For people who have received public benefits or are claiming exemption from the Public Charge Rule, the Form I-944 instructions describe the supporting documentation to include with your application.


Item 26

Part 1 of Form I-944 closes out by asking if you have ever received a fee waiver for any USCIS form. USCIS gives fee waivers to low-income applicants. If you have received one of these fee waivers in the past, you must explain why you received it and whether your situation has changed since then. Receiving a fee waiver is considered a negative factor. Currently, Green Card applicants do not qualify for any fee waivers under the Public Charge Rule.


Part 4: Your Education and Skills

In this part of the form, USCIS wants to learn about your education, your occupational skills, and your employment potential.


If you're applying for an employment-based Green Card, USCIS considers it as a positive factor. If USCIS has approved the I-140 from your employment-based Green Card application, you can enter the receipt number from the approval notice in this section.


If you're not applying for an employment-based Green Card, you will need to list the high schools and colleges you attended. If you did not graduate high school, you should list the last class year you attended. You must include evidence for both your high school and college education with your application, like diplomas and transcripts. If they are unavailable, you must explain why. You should also list any occupational or vocational licenses or certificates you have received with documentary evidence or explain why documentary evidence is not available.


USCIS also requires you to submit evidence of your language skills, including English and any other languages. Native English speakers are not exempt from this. Proof of your language skills could include certificates you have received for different language proficiencies or language courses where you are enrolled.


If you have gone to high school or college, completed any occupational or vocational programs, or have language skills, USCIS considers these positive factors. If not, USCIS considers these negative factors.


You must also note your retirement status and let USCIS know whether you are the primary caregiver of anyone in your household. Unless you are a caregiver or student, not having job prospects or work history is a negative factor. This is true even if you are too young or too old to work.


Part 5: Declarant's Statement, Contact Information, Certification, and Signature

Once you have entered all the information the form is requesting, you must spell out your name and sign the form. Without an actual signature, USCIS will return your form to you for signing.


Parts 6, 7, and 8: Translator Information

If you worked with a translator to complete this form or had anyone else help you complete the form, you must have them enter their information in Parts 6 and 7. Leave Part 8 blank — you will sign that part at your USCIS interview. Please don't sign it in advance. The USCIS officer will let you know when to sign it at the interview.


Part 9: Additional information

Part 9 is for you to submit any additional relevant information that you couldn't fit into the other application parts. If you need more than one sheet to include this information, make as many photocopies of Part 9 that you will need to record your input. USCIS will not accept extra information written on regular paper that isn't a part of the form.


Step 2) Gather your supporting documents

You will need to submit supporting documents with your Form I-944. For nearly everything you listed on the form, you will need to provide evidence to USCIS to support your claims. To ensure that you include every document that USCIS requires from you, we recommend that you read through the Form I-944 instructions very carefully.


Step 3) File Form I-944

Now that you have completed Form I-944 and gathered all of your required supporting documents, you are ready to file Form I-944. You should assemble your Form I-944 and all your supporting documents and submit it to USCIS together with your Form I-485 Green Card application.


Form I-944 is quite 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 I-944?


There is no fee for Form I-944. If you already submitted an adjustment of status while the final rule for the public charge was on hold because of COVID-19, you do not have to pay any extra fees when you submit Form I-944. You will only pay for the postal service or courier you use if you mail in your application. If you are submitting a new green card application based on an adjustment of status, you will not have to submit a filing fee with your Form I-944 either. You only need to pay the required fees for the other forms in your application packet and any postal service or courier when you mail it to USCIS.


You can read extensively about the public charge on our website. You can also check what your public charge risk is with our estimator tool.


When you are ready to apply, we can help you prepare the form for free as well. To begin, click the button below.


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What is the processing time for Form I-944? 


Form I-944 is very new, and so USCIS has not published any processing times for it as yet. Green Card applications generally take 10 to 13 months to process. The timeline is now as long as 10 to 29 months due to the coronavirus pandemic, The processing of this new form will probably decrease the overall processing time for permanent residence. We will update this page as more information from USCIS becomes available. 


You can read all that you need to know about the Public Charge Rule on our website. We can also help you figure out what your public charge risk is with our risk estimator.


Processing times for Form I-944 may be uncertain, but the best bet against any extra-long application processing times is to complete your forms correctly the first time around. ImmigrationHelp.org can help you put your Green Card application together correctly the first time for free using our simple web application. Click the button below to get started.

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Conclusion

We hope that you found our guide to completing Form I-944 useful. If you have any questions about the new Declaration of Self-Sufficiency form or want to share your experience with completing it, we'd love to hear from you. Drop a comment below, and we will reply ASAP!


Check your risk and prepare your forms
Check your risk and prepare your forms
Check your risk and prepare your forms

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