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Filling Out USCIS Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency – Immigration Lawyer New York
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Filling Out USCIS Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency

By Michael H. Markovitch, Esq. on February, 27, 2020

This article explains how to properly prepare this form for submission which is now required for most people seeking a Green Card in the USA.  The purpose of this new regulation is to ensure that an intending immigrant does not become a “Public Charge”.   Form I-944 requires you to supply detailed financial information and documents for yourself and every member of your household.


Part 1: Information About You

Questions 1-2: Enter your name and address, making sure to use the same ones as on your other application forms.

Question 3: The Alien Registration Number is an eight- or nine-digit number following a letter A that USCIS would have assigned to you if you previously applied for permanent (or, in some cases, temporary) residence or been in deportation/removal proceedings. Of course, if that previous application was denied because you were inadmissible or lied on that application, call a lawyer before going any further.

Question 4: It's entirely possible that you have no USCIS online account number, in which case leave this blank.

Questions 5-7: Self-explanatory.


Part 2: Family Status

Question 1: List and provide basic biographical information for yourself and all other members of your "household." That means, assuming you are an adult applicant: 1) you 2) your spouse, if he or she physically lives with you 3) any children under the age of 21 and unmarried who physically live with you 4) 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 a child support or custody order or agreement or any other such order or agreement specifying how much support money you must provide 5) 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, and 6) anyone who gives you at least 50% of your financial support, or who lists you as a dependent on a federal income tax return.

(For child applicants the list is slightly different, based on the idea that they live with parents; see the instructions to Form I-944.)

It's important to get this section right, because it goes to the heart of this 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 IRS. It's possible, if your income wasn't low 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). 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. Discuss this with an attorney.

Questions 2-3: Amounts earned from illegal activity will not help show your self-sufficiency. Consult with an attorney if you have such earnings.

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 at 8 C.F.R. § 212.21(b), this includes things like 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 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. See the instructions to the form for details. Be sure to include proof of value or ownership, where possible.

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.

Questions 11-14: Provide information about your credit report and score, including whether you've ever been in bankruptcy. As always, you'll need to document the information you provide.

Question 15: Give information about, and documentation proving, your health insurance in the U.S., if any. 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.

Questions 16-18: Give details on any public benefits you have received.

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 (for Question 20, as concerns Medicaid only).

Questions 22-25: Even if you haven't received public benefits, USCIS wants to know whether you applied for it.

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.


Part 4: Your Education and Skills

Here's your chance to prove that you're 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.

Questions 2-7: Self-explanatory, regarding your education and skills. Don't lie, but don't forget anything, either!


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 filled out this form unassisted, write N/A here. A little typing assistance or advice from a friend doesn’t count; the only people who need to complete this line are lawyers or agencies who fill out these forms on others’ behalf.


Part 8. Signature at Interview


For further information or questions, you may have, please do not hesitate to contact The Law Offices of Michael H. Markovitch.

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