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State Department Publishes Draft Public Charge Questionnaire

The State Department has proposed a draft questionnaire to be used by consular officers to determine the admissibility of visa applicants under its new public charge rule. The rule, which would impose a higher standard on visa applicants to establish that they are not likely to become a public charge of the U.S. government, had been set to take effect on October 15, but the agency delayed implementation while it develops a new public charge form. 

Public comments on the draft questionnaire will be accepted by the State Department through December 23, 2019.  The form will then be submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for final approval, which can take several months.

The State Department public charge rule could be challenged in federal court and enjoined from taking effect either before or after the form is finalized. A similar public charge rule issued by the Department of Homeland Security was also scheduled to take effect on October 15, but has been temporarily blocked by several federal courts. Though these court injunctions do not affect the State Department rule, similar lawsuits are expected.

The public charge questionnaire  

The questionnaire requests information about an applicant’s income, financial assets and liabilities, health insurance coverage, and receipt of public benefits, among other questions. It will be mandatory for immigrant visa applicants, including diversity lottery applicants. For nonimmigrant visa applicants, the questionnaire will only be requested at the discretion of the consular officer.

What this means for visa applicants

The public charge questionnaire is in draft form and does not have an immediate impact on visa applicants.   

However, starting November 3, immigrant visa applicants will become subject to a presidential proclamation requiring they demonstrate they will have health insurance within 30 days of entry to the United States or the financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical expenses.

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