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  • Writer's pictureKatharine Speer Rosenthal

Court halts new public charge rule during pandemic

A federal court in New York issued two nationwide orders that will provide relief to countless immigrants and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first order requires USCIS and the Department of State to stop enforcing the Trump Administration's restrictive changes to the public charge.

The second prevents the government from requiring applicants obtain health insurance while in the United States.

Both orders apply while there is a declared national emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The February 2020 changes required much more information from certain applicants about their financial status, including their family members' income, and any "public benefits" they had ever applied for or received in the United States.

Thanks to this federal court ruling, USCIS announced that it will not consider any information provided under the new public charge rule on applications filed after July 29, 2020. Also, applicants should not file Form I-944 with their applications going forward and should not provide information about public benefits on other forms that request this information (I-485, I-129, I-539/I-539A).

The Department of State, which processes visa applications for people outside the United States, has not announced how it will comply with the judge's order. It is currently unclear whether applicants should submit Form DS-5540 while the injunction is in effect.

I will continue to monitor this issue and will update this article as new information comes out.

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