Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency
Applying for adjustment of status (Permanent Residence on Form I-485 or an Immigrant Visa DS-260, “Green Card”) has become substantially more difficult. USCIS has revised its public charge ground of inadmissibility and issued a new Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency. [The Department of State has a similar though less extensive Form DS-5540, Public Charge Questionnaire.]
The Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency, is now likely the most involved and crucial part of an Application to Adjust Status (Green Card, Form I-485).
Completing Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency, is a daunting, time consuming task. I have not had one client who could complete Form I-944 on their own without the assistance of an experienced immigration lawyer. In fact, you might want to go above and beyond the documentation required. Because proving that you're not likely to become a public charge is all about outweighing negative factors with positive ones. The more proof you can provide of positive economic factors in your life, such as a letter from an employer detailing your job skills, the greater your chances at success with your immigration application.
What is Form I-944?
Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency, is used by USCIS to determine whether an applicant is likely to become a public charge at any time in the future based on evaluating a totality of circumstances test involving several factors including not only receipt of public benefits, but also, the applicant’s: age; health; family status; assets, resources, financial status; education and workplace skills; the petitioner’s Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. USCIS weighs positive and negative factors. Certain factors are considered heavily-weighted positive and heavily-weighted negative factors.
In general, a person is inadmissible based on public charge grounds if he or she is more likely than not at any time in the future to receive one or more public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.
Applicants need to understand:
- the public charge ground of inadmissibility does NOT require the Applicant has received any public benefits;
- the public charge ground of inadmissibility is NOT satisfied solely by a Sponsor submitting a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, with sufficient income;
- The Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency, and your Form I-944 required supporting documents are extremely important in the officer making a determination the Applicant is not likely to become a public charge at any time in the future.
A Limited Number of Applicants Are Exempt from Filing Form I-944
Certain special classes of immigrants are not required to file Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency, with an adjustment of status application such as: VAWA self-petitioners; special immigrant juveniles; certain Afghani or Iraqi nationals; asylees; refugees; victims of qualifying criminal activity (U Nonimmigrants); victims of human trafficking (T nonimmigrants); applicants applying under the Cuban Adjustment Act, Haitian Refugee Fairness Act, certain Parolees; Nicaraguans and other Central Americans of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA), and other special classes of immigrants.
What is on Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency?
A. Information About the Applicant’s Household
Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency, requires an applicant to provide detailed information about their household including information about all individuals living in the household, information about the applicant’s assets, resources, and financial status, as well as the household’s assets, resources, and financial status of all members living in the household. Household members include the applicant, the applicant’s spouse, children (under age 21 and unmarried) physically residing with the applicant, and any other individuals receiving at least 50 percent of the applicant’s financial support.
Form I-944 requires the applicant and his household members to list their annual gross (total) income as indicated on their most recent federal income tax return. The household’s annual gross income must be at least 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for the most recent year (or 100 percent if you are on active duty, other than in training, in the U.S. Armed Forces).
If the combined household income is less than 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines based on the applicant’s household size, the applicant must demonstrate that the total value of his or her household’s assets and resources is five times the difference between the household’s annual gross income and 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for your household size.
Applicants and household members who filed IRS federal income tax returns for the most recent tax year are required to submit an IRS tax return transcript. Additional income non-taxable income that was not included on an IRS income tax return also needs to be documented.
B. Household’s Assets and Resources
In addition, Form I-944 requires applicants to provide information regarding any assets and resources available to the applicant and/or his household members (type of asset and amount) including money in checking and savings accounts, annuities, stocks and bonds, retirement accounts and educational accounts, net cash value of real estate holdings, and other assets.
C. Liabilities and Debts
Form I-944 also requires applicants to provide detailed information regarding all liabilities or debts such as mortgages, car loans, unpaid child or spousal support, unpaid taxes, and credit card debt. Documentation for each liability or debt must be submitted with the application along with an explanation where necessary.
D. Credit Report and Score
Form I-944 requires applicants with a U.S. credit score to submit a credit report from Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. (Additional resource on obtaining a credit report is available here.) If any negative history appears in the applicant’s credit report, the applicant must provide an explanation. Negative history includes any delinquent accounts, debt collections, charge-offs (delinquency accounts unlikely to be collected), repossession, foreclosure, judgments, tax liens, or bankruptcies.
Applicants who do not have U.S. credit score must provide documentation that demonstrates that they do not have a credit report or score with a credit bureau.
E. Health Insurance
Form I-944 asks whether an applicant has U.S. health insurance. Applicants with U.S. health insurance must attach evidence of their health insurance and provide information about their premium tax credit or advanced premium tax credit under the Affordable Care Act (if applicable), their annual deductible or annual insurance premium, the health insurance termination date, etc.
F. Public Benefits
Form I-944 asks applicants to provide any information about the applicant’s application or certification for, or receipt of public benefits regardless of amount or duration. Applicants are asked whether they have ever received, or are currently certified to receive in the future any of the following public benefits: (1) Federal, state, local or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance, (2) Supplemental Security Income (3) Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) (4) General Assistance (5) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly “Food Stamps”) (6) Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program (7) Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation (8) Public Housing under the Housing Act of 1937 or (9) Federal-Funded Medicaid.
If the applicant has received one of the above benefits, they must provide information about each public benefit including the type of public benefit, agency granting the benefit, date the benefit began, date the benefit ended, and the amount received.
Applicants who have a pending application to receive any of the nine public benefits enumerated above or who have been denied any of the nine public benefits enumerated are required to disclose this information including the date of application of the above listed public benefits, or date of withdrawal if the applicant withdrew an application for public benefits before being certified to receive the public benefit.
G. Fee Waivers on Immigration Forms
Form I-944 asks applicants whether they have applied for or received a fee waiver in the past when applying for an immigration benefit from USCIS. Applications who have applied for a fee waiver must provide the date the fee waiver was received, the type of immigration benefit sought, and the receipt number.
H. Education and Skills
Form I-944 asks applicants to provide information regarding their education, occupational skills, and other related information.
Applicants are asked whether they have graduated high school or received a high school equivalent diploma as well as details regarding their educational history including all degrees attained. If applicable, applicants must provide evidence of any degrees or certifications received such as transcripts, diplomas, degrees, and trade profession certificates or equivalent. Any education obtained outside the United States must be accompanied by an evaluation of equivalency by an accredited academic evaluation agency that is authorized to determine equivalency.
Applicants must list all relevant occupational skills, including certifications and licenses, dates they were obtained, the name of the issuing agency, license numbers, and expiration/renewal date. This includes workforce skills, training, licenses for specific occupations or professions, and certificates documenting mastery or apprenticeships in skilled trades or professions.
These applicants must provide evidence of any training, licenses for specific occupations or professions, and certificates documenting mastery or apprenticeships in skilled trades or professions.
Job and occupational skills and certifications and English language fluency and other language fluency is extremely important, especially if the Applicant does not have a high school diploma or equivalency. If the Applicant is not fluent in English, then documenting his/her other language competencies is very important.
A negative implication of the Applicant is not currently working is offset if s/he is over 18 years and is the primary caregiver for a household member who is a child, elderly, ill or disabled person—in his/her household.
I. English Language Proficiency
Form I-944 asks applicants to provide information about their skill with English and any other language. Applicants with certifications or who have taken courses in languages other than English are required to provide evidence of such language certifications, language or literacy courses taken presently or in the past, etc.
Evidence of language certification may include high school diplomas and college degrees showing that the native language was studied for credit.
USCIS Evaluation of Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency
The Application for Permanent Residence can be denied based on the officer’s evaluation of the Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency and its required supporting documents.
The USCIS officer will evaluate the Form I-944 under a totality of circumstances test involving several factors including not only receipt of public benefits, but also, the applicant’s: age; health; family status; assets, resources, financial status; education and workplace skills; the petitioner’s Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. USCIS weighs positive and negative factors. Certain factors are considered heavily-weighted positive and heavily-weighted negative factors.
Review of Likely Supporting Documentation Required for Form I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency
If you have ever received, currently receive, or are currently certified to receive any public benefit(s), as listed in questionnaire: letter(s), notice(s), certification(s), or other agency documents that contain:
- Your name;
- Name and contact information for public benefit granting agency;
- Type of public benefit;
- Date you began receiving the benefit or, if certified, date you will start receiving public benefits;
- Date benefit ends or expires.
- If disenrolled from public benefit(s): Documentation demonstrating confirmation of such disenrollment or, if agency has not processed your request(s), a copy of your disenrollment request(s)
- If public benefit(s) withdrawn: Documentation demonstrating that the agency received your withdrawal request
- If public benefit(s) denied/rejected: Documentation demonstrating that the agency denied/rejected your request
- If you do not qualify for public benefits: Documentation from a federal, state, or tribal agency that administers public benefits stating that you do not or would not qualify for such public benefit by virtue of your circumstances, such as annual gross household income or immigration status.
- Documentation regarding the household members, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and/or affidavits to establish relationships.
- IRS Transcript(s) of your federal income tax returns for the last 3 years.
- Household Member(s)’ IRS Transcript(s) for most recent federal tax return.
- If tax returns are unavailable: Copy of W-2s for the last 3 years or if W-2s are not available, pay stubs.
- Social Security Statement providing history or annual income for yourself or household member(s), if applicable.
- Child support order(s) and/or agreement(s), custody order(s) and/or agreement(s), or any other order(s) and/or agreement(s), if applicable.
- Your foreign tax transcripts/returns for most recent year, if applicable.
- Household member(s)’ foreign tax transcripts/returns for most recent year, if applicable.
- Documentation of any nontaxable income received by yourself and/or household member(s) that was not included in most recent tax return, such as:
- Consistent and regular support from adult children, parents, dependents, or other people living in the household or not living in the household;
- Gifts received under $15,000;
- Child support;
- Educational assistance up to $5,250;
- Social Security benefits (depending on income level); and
- Veteran’s disability benefits.
- If gross household income is less than 125% of FPG: List and Documentation of assets/resources held by you and/or household member(s), whether inside OR outside the United States, that can be readily converted into cash within 12 months. [Generally applicants should provide the List and Documentation of Household members assets regardless of value of household income to FPG.] Please find a non-exhaustive list of examples and accompanying documentation:
- Home/Property/Real Estate Holdings Ownership
- Documentation demonstrating your OR household member’s ownership of the property, such as the title document;
- A recent appraisal by a licensed appraiser; and
- Documentation evidencing amount(s) of any loan(s) secured on the property, such as a mortgage, trust deed, or other lien if applicable.
- Automobile Ownership
- Documentation demonstrating your OR household member’s ownership of the vehicle, such as a certificate of title; and
- Documentation evidencing amount of any loan(s) secured on the vehicle, if applicable.
- Checking, Savings, Retirement, and/or Educational Account(s) Ownership
- Account statements covering at least 12 months prior to filing
- Annuities Ownership
- Copy of the contract and/or documentation demonstrating payments received thereon
- Stocks, Bonds (with cash value), and Certificate(s) of Deposit Ownership
- Copies of evidencing title to any stock(s), bond(s), and certificate(s) of deposit demonstrating ownership and the instrument’s cash value
- Any other evidence of substantial assets that can be easily converted into cash.
- Home/Property/Real Estate Holdings Ownership
- List and Documentation of your liabilities and/or debts held by you, both inside and outside the United States. Please find a non-exhaustive list of examples and accompanying documentation:
- Documentation issued by the financial institution/lending entity evidencing the mortgage
- Car loan(s)
- Documentation issued by the financial institution/lending entity evidencing the car loan(s)
- Unpaid child and/or spousal support
- Documentation, such as a court order or other document, evidencing any unpaid child and/or spousal support
- Unpaid taxes
- Documentation, such as a letter from the IRS, evidencing any unpaid taxes
- Credit card debt
- Credit card statements for all credit cards covering the last 6 months prior to filing.
- Education-related loan(s)
- Loan statements issued to you by the lending entity covering the last 6 months prior to filing.
- Documentation evidencing any liens issued against you and/or property you own
- Personal loans
- Loan statements issued to you by the lending entity covering the last 6 months prior to filing.
- A copy of your credit report from Equifax, Experian, or Transunion issued within 1 year of filing, if applicable.
- If you do not have a credit report: Documentation that demonstrates you do not have a credit report or score with a credit bureau, such as a signed letter from the credit bureau(s), and any evidence of continued payments of bills.
- If you have filed for bankruptcy, whether inside OR outside the U.S.: Documentation evidencing the resolution of each bankruptcy.
- If you have health insurance coverage: Health insurance card issued with your name and the effective and expiration dates. In addition, documentation that establishes your active policy/coverage:
- A copy of each policy page showing the terms, including individual(s) covered, type of coverage, the deductible or premium, and when the policy expires/must be renewed; OR
- Letter on health insurance company letterhead (or other evidence from the company) ; OR
- Copy of the most recent IRS Form 1095-B (if available), evidencing renewal of coverage for the current year.
- Premium Tax Credit(s)/Advanced Premium Tax Credit(s): Transcript copy of your IRS Form 8963, IRS Form 8962, and a copy of IRS Form 1095-A.
- If you are enrolled in health insurance but coverage has not started: A letter or other evidence from the insurance company showing that you have enrolled in or have a future enrollment date for a health insurance plan. Must include terms, type of coverage, state that you are the individual covered under the prospective policy, and the date coverage commences.
- Any medical condition(s): Documentation related to any medical condition(s) you currently have, such as medical records, medical/mental health documentation, evaluations by licensed medical professionals, or other documentation regarding your health and condition. You are also encouraged to submit documentation to outweigh any negative effect related to your medical condition, such as:
- Information provided by a civil surgeon or a panel physician on a medical examination;
- An attestation from your treating physician regarding the prognosis of your medical condition(s) and whether it impacts your ability to work or go to school;
- Documentation of sufficient assets and resources to pay the costs of reasonably foreseeable/anticipated medical treatment.
Education and Skills
- Documentation evidencing history of employment for the last 5 years, such as a Resume/CV (if available and not already provided), which includes any employment outside the US, part-time/seasonal employment, self-employment, and/or unemployment.
- Copy of the following educational degrees obtained, whether inside or outside the United States, if applicable:
- High school diploma;
- Bachelor’s degree(s)/transcripts; and
- Other higher education degree(s)/transcripts.
- Copy of documentation of any occupational skills, such as:
- Workforce skills and training, such as participating in vocational rehabilitation programs;
- Licenses for specific occupations or professions; and
- Certificates documenting mastery or apprenticeships in skilled trades or professions;
- If evidence is unavailable: provide a statement explaining why and, if possible, evidence of unavailability, such as a letter from the issuing institution.
- Documentation establishing English proficiency, if applicable. Examples include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Language certifications certificates;
- Documentation of any language or literacy classes taken or currently taking
- Native English (or other language) speakers: MUST provide evidence of such proficiency, such as high school diplomas and college degrees/transcripts showing that the native language was studied for credit
- If not previously submitted, documentation of income from pensions, social security, or other retirement benefits/accounts.
- A sworn statement attesting to your role as a primary caretaker, and any other documentation establishing that:
- You are the primary caretaker, such as a legal guardianship court order;
- The individual you provide care for resides in your household;
- The age of the person being cared for; and
- The medical condition of the person being cared for, including any disabilities, such as a letter by the individual’s doctor indicating their medical condition or copies of their medical record.