On March 9, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed that it would no longer defend the previous administration’s controversial Public Charge Rule. This reversal was the result of an internal review by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as directed by President Biden’s February 2, 2021, Executive Order on Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems. DHS determined that the public interest would not be served by continuing to challenge judicial decisions invalidating the Public Charge Rule. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas stated that the rule “was not in keeping with our nation’s values.”
At the government’s request, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed its two active cases related to the Public Charge Rule. The termination of these cases and the government’s dismissal of related appeals in the Fourth and Seventh Circuits restores lower court orders that had been on hold during appellate review. Specifically, a November 2, 2020, judgment from the Northern District of Illinois vacated the Public Charge Rule in its entirety on the grounds that it violates federal immigration law and administrative procedure law.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that it immediately stopped applying the Public Charge Rule to all pending applications and petitions on March 9, 2021, and will not consider any information previously provided. Applicants for adjustment of status should no longer submit the Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency, and should not answer the public benefits questions on Forms I-129, I-539, and I-485. USCIS is expected to update its Policy Manual and publish revised forms in the near future.
The public charge ground of inadmissibility will still exist in U.S. law, as it has for more than 100 years. However, without the Public Charge Rule, USCIS—as well as consular officers considering visa applications abroad—will rely on the policy that was in place for 20 years before the Public Charge Rule, the 1999 Interim Field Guidance.