On July 29, a federal court had ruled that the government could not enforce the public charge rule during the pandemic. This was a much welcomed announcement since many immigrant families are being severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new rules would effectively hinder their changes to obtain a legal immigration benefit for which they would otherwise quality. Under the rule, and while assessing the applicant’s eligibility, the government can take into account the individual’s past use of public benefits, age, medical issues, education, and work history, among other aspects, in evaluating the person’s likelihood of becoming a public charge.
On August 12, however, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the prior ruling should only apply to states in the Second Circuit (New York, Vermont, and Connecticut). There are still many unanswered questions on this issue, including what will happen to applicants who did apply between the window of time after July 29 and before the ruling was narrowed. Meanwhile, the I-944 form, Declaration of Self Sufficiency, which is used to demonstrate eligibility under the public charge rules, is not available on USCIS’ website.