The Declaration of Self-Sufficiency, or Form I-944, is a new US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) form that will be used by the adjustment of status (green card) applicants to provide information about their financial situation.
The purpose of Form I-944 is to screen out applicants who are likely to become a public charge under the new rule.
The public charge rule allows the government to deny green cards to legal immigrants who are likely to become a public charge.
This article will examine the new Form I-944, required documents and outline tips on how to fill out the form.
Who needs to submit Form I-944?
If you are a green card applicant using the adjustment of status process to apply from within the United States, you must submit Form I-944 under the new public charge rule.
If you are a foreign-born person submitting an adjustment of status application to USCIS and you are not among the applicants who are exempt from proving that they’re not inadmissible to the U.S. as a likely public charge, then you must fill out Form I-944.
If, however, you are applying from outside the United States through consular processing, you will not be required to file Form I-944.
Who is not required to submit Form I-944?
The following groups of people are exempt from the public charge ground of inadmissibility, and are therefore not required to submit Form I-944:
- Refugee applicants and refugees who are applying for adjustment of status
- Asylum applicants and asylees who are applying for adjustment of status
- Applicants for initial or re-registration of Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
- Applicants for initial or renewal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status
- Cubans who are applying for adjustment of status under the Cuban Adjustment Act
- Amerasians who are applying for adjustment of status
- Afghan and Iraqi interpreters and translators who are applying for special immigrant visas (SIV)
- Applicants for Special Immigrant Juveniles Status (SIJS)
- Victims of certain crimes who are applying for a U nonimmigrant visa or U visa holders applying for adjustment of status
- Victims of trafficking who are applying for a T nonimmigrant visa; T visa recipients who are applying for adjustment of status no longer have to seek a waiver of public charge inadmissibility
- Victims of domestic violence who are applying for relief under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), including approved self-petitioner who are applying for adjustment of status
- Applicants for “registry” based on their having resided in the United States since before January 1, 1972
- Applicants for benefits under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA)
- Applicants for benefits under the Haitian Relief and Immigrant Fairness Act (HRIFA)
- Lautenberg parolees who are applying for adjustment of status.
What information do I need to provide?
The following information will be asked for on the Form I-944:
- Name, address, date of birth, citizenship, alien registration number, and place of birth
- Names, date of birth, and relationship to you for every member of the household
- Information for the entire household income including name, the status of tax filing, tax year, total income from tax return
- Household assets information like checking and savings account balances, cash, stocks, and retirement accounts, etc.
- Appraisal and cash value of the real estate holdings
- Household liabilities like mortgages, car loans, or personal loans
- Credit score report
- Bankruptcy details (if applicable)
- Public benefits used in the past or currently in use
- Education and skills
- Occupational skills and professional licenses
- Certification of English and other language skills
- Retirement details (if necessary)
- Interpreter details (if necessary)
- Authorization for USCIS to verify with the credit reporting agency and government entities like Social Security Administration, U.S. Department of Health, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, etc.
- A declaration that all documents are copies from the originals
- Applicant’s signature
You can attach any additional information not specified to your Form I-944.
You must file your I-944 Form along with your I-485 Form Adjustment of Status application.
You could receive requests for additional information, or be asked questions relating to your I-944 Form when you have your in-person interview.
How to fill out Form I-944?
Even though the information that is required in Form I-944 is self-explanatory, this article will help you to correctly complete Form I-944.
You’ll also want to use the latest edition of Form I-944 and carefully read the instructions that USCIS provides on its website.
Part 1: Information about you
Questions 1-2: Enter your legal name and address, making sure to use the same ones as on your other application forms.
Question 3: The Alien Registration Number (A number) is an eight- or nine-digit number following a letter “A”.
USCIS would have assigned an A number to you if you previously applied for permanent (or, in some cases, temporary) residence or been in deportation/removal proceedings.
This is the number that you’re assigned when you begin your immigration process.
Question 4: You may have no USCIS online account number, in which case leave this blank.
Question 5: Enter the date of birth, use the standard U.S. format mm/dd/yyyy ((month, followed by day, followed by year).
Part 2: Family Status (Your Household)
In this section, you’ll list all the people who are members of your household.
Question 1: List and provide basic biographical information for yourself and all other members of your household. Assuming you are an adult applicant, it includes:
- Your spouse, if he or she physically lives with you
- Any children under the age of 21 and unmarried who physically live with you
- Any other children under the age of 21 and unmarried who don’t physically live with you but for whom you provide or are required to provide at least 50% of financial support under either child support or custody order or agreement or any other such order or agreement specifying how much support money you must provide
- Anyone else, such as a husband or wife who doesn’t physically live with you, to whom you provide, or are required to provide, at least 50% of financial support, or who is listed as a dependent on your federal income tax return
- Anyone who gives you at least 50% of your financial support, or who lists you as a dependent on a federal income tax return.
Child applicants must provide a similar list with details about themselves and their parents or guardians, and any other members of their parents’ or guardians’ household.
It is important to provide a full name, date of birth and basic information for each person you list.
You should also provide their alien registration number (A number) if they have one.
You should also indicate if any of your household members is receiving any public benefit.
You must get this section right because it is the foundation of I-944 Form’s purpose: whether you will be self-supporting in the United States.
Part 3: Your and Your Household Members’ Assets, Resources, and Financial Status
Question 1: Enter information on your and your household members’ total gross income (without subtracting taxes and expenses), and on whether you and the others filed a tax return with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
It’s possible, if your income wasn’t high enough, that you weren’t required to file taxes at all.
This won’t help your ability to prove that your household is self-supporting, however.
You will be expected to show a total household income at 125% of the U.S. Poverty Guidelines for the area in which you live (which is the same as the U.S. sponsor of a family member must show in filling out USCIS Form I-864, Affidavit of Support).
|2020 Minimum Annual Income Requirements for green card applicants: 125% of Federal Poverty Guidelines|
|Number of people in your household||Applicants in 48 contiguous states, D.C., and U.S. territories||Applicants in Alaska||Applicants in Hawaii|
|*For each additional person, add||$5,600||$7,000||$6,437|
Having enough income and assets is a regular positive factor and having total household income or assets of at least 250% of the federal positive guidelines is a heavily positive factor.
Having work authorization and a job with an annual income of 250% of the federal positive guidelines is also considered a heavily positive factor.
If you underreported your income, it might be best to file an amended return, pay the tax you owe, and then complete your immigration paperwork.
Questions 2-3: Amounts earned from any illegal activity will not help show your self-sufficiency.
Questions 4-5: Now we come to one of the central issues explored in this form: whether you or any members of your family have received need-based cash benefits from government sources.
As explained in the USCIS regulations, this includes:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI),
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF),
- Federal, state or local cash benefit programs (commonly called “general assistance”),
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),
- Section 8 Housing Assistance, Medicaid, and so on.
These amounts will ultimately not be counted in your household income.
With the receipt of benefits in your recent history plus a low income, you might be found inadmissible.
Questions 6-8: List and give details about any sources of income that aren’t reflected on your tax return, such as child support.
Again, you’ll need to explain whether any of that money came from illegal activity.
Question 9: List household assets, such as real estate, an extra car, or investment accounts.
These can help raise household income levels, though at a percentage of their full value.
Also, they need to be convertible to cash within a 12-month period.
You must list the values of your assets in U.S. dollars.
Be sure to include proof of value or ownership, where possible. Such assets include:
- Bank accounts
- Retirement savings
- Other stocks or investments
- Houses and real estate, minus the value of any outstanding mortgages or loans
- Cars, but only if you have an additional vehicle that you don’t list as an asset
It is also important that you provide copies of any loans or mortgages still outstanding on the listed assets.
Question 10: Here, you’ll need to disclose how much debt you have, such as a home mortgage, student loans, or credit card debt.
You’ll also need to attach copies of documents backing up the information.
Having no debts or liabilities is a positive factor while having debts or liabilities is a negative factor.
Questions 11-14: Provide information about your credit report and score, including whether you’ve ever been in bankruptcy.
You can get a copy of your credit report from any of the three main U.S. credit agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) which you can then submit with your I-944.
If you arrived in the United States recently and have not used credit cards, you might not have a credit report or a credit score.
Form I-944 requires applicants who do not have a credit report or score to submit a statement from one of the three credit agencies verifying that they do not have one.
You will also be required to indicate if you ever filed for bankruptcy.
If you have, you will need to provide details and evidence that the bankruptcy has since been resolved.
If you have any negative items on your credit report, then you can include a written statement explaining what happened.
A credit report shows your bill payment history, current debt and other financial information.
Your credit score is a single number that goes up and down depending on how you use credit and repay debts.
Having a good credit report and mid-to-high credit score is a positive factor, and having bad credit is a negative factor.
A good credit score is 670 to 739 with a higher score being very good or excellent.
Question 15: Give information about, and documentation proving, your health insurance in the U.S. if any.
If you do, you’ll need to provide additional information, including the amount of your premium and whether you received any Affordable Care Act subsidies to help you pay for your coverage.
Because the U.S. has no nationalized form of health insurance, this can be a significant barrier for immigrants, particularly if their U.S. petitioner/sponsor doesn’t have employer-covered health insurance.
Again, receiving Medicaid is problematic, because it’s only for low-income people, and can result in you being found inadmissible as a likely public charge.
You are also required to include documentation of your policy or a letter from your insurer.
It is important to keep in mind that a health insurance card is only enough if it clearly shows the start and end dates for your coverage.
If you don’t currently have health insurance it is important that you either provide evidence that you’ve enrolled in coverage that’s yet to take effect, or evidence how you are planning to pay for any healthcare treatment you might need.
Having private, unsubsidized health insurance is considered a heavily positive factor.
The lack of health insurance is a negative factor.
Your lack of any insurance could become a heavily negative factor if you have ongoing health issues that could require costly treatment.
Questions 16-18: Give details on any public benefits you have received.
If you have used any public benefits, you are required to list the agency that extended the benefit, the dates during which you received the benefit, and the amount of the benefit that you received.
An applicant’s past use or likely future use of any listed benefits for more than 12 months in aggregate over a 36-month period would lead to a denial on public charge grounds. These benefits include:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
- State or local general relief or general assistance
- Institutionalization for long-term care
- Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps)
- Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program
- Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance
- Public Housing
The following are NOT considered as public benefits:
- The receipt of Medicaid for the treatment of an emergency medical condition.
- Services or benefits funded by Medicaid but provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
- School-based services or benefits provided to individuals who are at or below the oldest age-eligible for secondary education as determined under state or local law.
- Medicaid benefits received by an alien under 21 years of age
- Medicaid benefits received by a woman during pregnancy and during the 60-day period beginning on the last day of the pregnancy.
- Unemployment compensation
- Job training programs
- Emergency disaster relief
- Foster care and adoption assistance
- Cash payments that have been earned, such as Title II Social Security benefits, government pensions, and veterans benefits, and other forms of earned benefits
Questions 19-21: Look at these questions carefully. Answering “yes” to one of them could save your application because it might mean you’re all or partly exempt from the public charge rules
Questions 22-25: Even if you haven’t received public benefits, USCIS wants to know whether you applied for it.
If you have used benefits, or if you’re claiming an exemption from the public charge rule, you’ll need to provide full documentation to support your application
Question 26: Past requests to USCIS for a waiver of an application fee will also be considered in deciding whether you are a likely public charge.
Such waivers are based on a low income or other financial hardship.
If that applies to you, you’ll have to explain in writing why you received a waiver, and whether your situation has since changed.
Part 4: Your Education and Skills
You now have a chance to prove that you are employable or will be employed in the United States.
Question 1: Only applicants coming to the U.S. on an employment-based immigrant visa can answer “yes” to this.
If you are applying for an employment green card and have an approved Form I-140, you can enter the receipt number from your Form I-140.
Under the new public charge rule, seeking an employment-based green card is a regular positive factor.
You can list high schools and colleges you’ve attended and submit diplomas and transcripts as supporting evidence, or provide a statement explaining why such documents are not available.
You are also required to submit evidence of your language skills – both English and any other languages that you speak.
This could include evidence of language courses you’re currently taking, or certification you’ve acquired in the past.
You are also required to indicate whether you’re currently retired and whether you are the primary caregiver of any children, elderly, or sick people in your household.
The implication is that having a high school education, a college education, vocational qualifications, and English or other language skills are all positive factors, while the absence of such skills and qualifications are negative factors.
On the other hand, if you have a work history or you are a primary caregiver is a positive factor.
Lack of employment history or immediate job prospects is a negative factor, unless you are a caregiver or a student.
Part 5. Declarant’s Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature
You must affirm that you understand and swear to the information in this form, provide contact information, state whether someone else filled it out for you, and sign here.
Part 6. Interpreter’s Contact Information, Certification, and Signature
If you had help from a foreign-language interpreter in filling out the form, that person needs to fill in this section and sign it.
Part 7. Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature of Person Preparing This Declaration, if Other Than the Declarant
If you fill out this form unassisted, write N/A here. If you were assisted by a preparer to fill out these forms, they are required to sign here.
Part 9. Additional Information
In part 9, you can write in any additional information you need to that didn’t fit elsewhere on the form.
To submit extra pages, you should make extra copies of Part 9, and use those to fill out any additional information.
Once you’re done filling out the form, go through the USCIS instructions carefully, to determine the implications of the information you provided, and to make sure you’re attaching all relevant documents.
Form I-944 Checklist
While filing Form I-944, will need to provide proof of the following:
- Income (such as tax returns)
- Proof of assets (such as property deeds or bank statements)
You are also required to provide evidence of every information you list in the form.
You should show proof of your education, education, job offers, and health insurance.
If the supporting documents are not available, you must write a statement explaining why.
Form I-944 Fees
There is no filing fee for Form I-944.
However, you will still need to pay all the other fees associated with your green card application (such as Form I-485 fees and biometrics fee).
Where do I file Form I-944?
You are required to send your Form I-944 as well as Form I-485 and all the supporting documents as part of your green card application to USCIS.
Form I-944 Processing Time
Since Form I-944 is new, USCIS is yet to provide an estimate of the processing time.
For Form I-484, which is submitted alongside Form I-944, it takes between 10 and 13 months from the date you submitted it to process.
Form I-944 could take a similar timeline, but this article will be updated when this information becomes available.
What happens after filing Form I-944?
After you have filed your Form I-944, a USCIS officer will begin to review your application and weigh all the various positive and negative factors.
The USCIS officer does this to determine if you can support yourself without requesting public benefits assistance.
You could either receive requests for additional information or be asked to attend your in-person interview.
If the USCIS officer determines that you can support yourself and meet all the other requirements, you can typically receive your green card 10-13 months after you filed your I-944 and I-485 forms.
Prepare Your Form I-944 with SelfLawyer
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