The government is yet again proposing sweeping changes to current immigration policy, this time targeting Form I-864, Affidavit of Support.
By law, petitioners seeking to immigrate their immediate relative to the United States are required to submit Form I-864 affidavit of support, to ensure to the government that the foreign national will not become a public charge once they have entered the country.
This is true regardless of whether the immigrant is applying for an immigrant visa overseas, or whether the immigrant is adjusting their status to lawful permanent resident in the United States.
The affidavit of support has recently been the subject of intense scrutiny by the Trump administration.
The President has been primarily concerned with alien’s obtaining government benefits that they are not entitled to receive and has sought to enforce a sponsor’s obligations to reimburse the government for any monies paid out to aliens.
To that end, on May 23, 2019, the President signed a memorandum to enforce the legal responsibilities of sponsors of the affidavit of support, requiring them to reimburse government entities where an alien has received certain public benefits such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
Shortly thereafter the government passed the controversial “public charge” rule which created an obstacle to permanent residency for aliens who have received certain public benefits for more than 12 months within any 36-month period, including Supplemental Social Security income, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Medicaid, nonemergency Medicaid, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance, Section 8 housing, and other forms of subsidized housing. The government also came up with a “totality of the circumstances” test to analyze whether an applicant would likely become a public charge.
Recently, a 30-day notice published by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) appeared in the Federal Register notifying the public of new changes being proposed to the affidavit of support.
The proposed rule
The 30-day notice outlines new changes to the affidavit of support that could be enforced within the next few months.
Among its proposals, USCIS will be making changes to the language and instructions of Form I-864 to clarify a sponsor’s obligations as well as the penalties that could be assessed to hold a sponsor financially responsible in the event an immigrant obtains public benefits.
In addition, USCIS is proposing that sponsors provide confidential bank account information and information about previously submitted affidavits. This collection of bank account information is extremely controversial, because USCIS has never required such information to be provided by sponsors, and it is unclear how data on these statements could be used or collected.
The proposal would also require signatures on Forms I-864, I-864EZ, and I-864A to be notarized prior to submission creating added costs and a huge inconvenience for sponsors worldwide.
Finally, while the affidavit of support does not require sponsors to provide a credit report, the proposed rule would give sponsors the option of providing their credit report as evidence of financial ability.
What happens next?
At this time, the comment period for the proposed rule has closed. This means that the government will be reviewing public comments and drafting a final rule within the next few months. When the final rule is published it will contain the effective date of enforcement. Generally, once a final rule is published in the federal register it is effective no less than 30 days after its date of publication.
If passed would this proposal impact applications already in the pipeline?
No, if passed the proposal would only impact applications filed on or after the effective date of the rule.
Where can I find more information about the rule?
To read and track the progress of the rule please click here.
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