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USCIS Published New Forms I-129 & I-539 with Public Charge and Public Benefits Questions

10 Oct

In August, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a rule requiring inquiry into whether immigrants in certain nonimmigrant classifications may have received public benefits that would render them inadmissible to the United States on “public charge” grounds.  Because existing USCIS forms do not ask applicants about prior receipt of public benefits, in order to implement the new rule USCIS revised the forms used for certain petitions and applications.

On Wednesday, October 9th, just days before existing forms will no longer be accepted by USCIS, the agency has published new forms that include additional questions regarding receipt of public benefits and potential inadmissibility on “public charge” grounds.

When filing a petition seeking an extension or change of nonimmigrant status, petitioners must complete part 6 of Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.  Part 6 requires information regarding the beneficiary’s receipt of public benefits on or after October 15, 2019. Specifically, the petitioner must answer whether the beneficiary has received any of the following benefits.

  • Any federal, state, local or tribal cash assistance from income maintenance
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • General Assistance (GA)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Section 8 Housing under the Housing Choice Voucher Program
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance 
  • Public Housing under the Housing Act of 1937
  • Federally-Funded Medicaid

If the beneficiary has received any such benefits, additional documentation must be provided with the petition filing.  Further, while certain exemptions and exceptions apply, if the beneficiary of the petition has received such benefits since acquiring the status he or she is seeking to extend or change, and if such assistance was received for a cumulative total of 12 months in a three-year period, the beneficiary can be deemed ineligible for the extension or change of status.

Petitions that cannot be postmarked by October 14th will require the new forms.  Because October 14th is a Federal holiday, the US Post Office will not be able to accept and postmark filings.  Accordingly, Foster is working with employers to file petitions no later than Friday, October 11th whenever possible in order to meet the deadline before the new forms are required beginning Tuesday, October 15th.

If a petition must be filed on the new forms requiring the additional information, Foster will assist clients in requesting and obtaining the necessary information from employees to enable the filing of petitions seeking an extension or change of nonimmigrant status.

For more information, or if you have questions, your Foster attorney will be happy to assist you.  As always, Foster will stay abreast of immigration policy changes and new form publications and will provide future updates via our firm’s website at