As many of you know, USCIS in mid Aug 2019, released the final version of the Public Charge rule that impacts H1B, H4, L1, F1 visa holders, including many other visa types. It is set to be effective from October 15th, 2019. USCIS has released new version of the forms late yesterday. If you are filing the form I-539 with USCIS for Extensions, Change of Status on or after Oct 15th, 2019, then you need to use the latest version of the form. In this article, we will review the changes in the new form I-539 and how to answer them based on your situation.
Update : Public Charge Rule was removed by Biden Administration in March 2021. The below article and the Form Discussed in this article is no longer applicable. USCIS Has updated their forms now and there is No public Charge information to be filled in that form. You need to use the form with Edition 03/10/21 edition. Starting April 19, 2021, USCIS will only accept the new form I-539 without Public Charge info in it.
If you recall, this is the second time Form I-539 is changed this year. We had New Form I-539 for Biometrics Process…Anyways, before we jump into details, let’s try to understand, who all will be impacted…
Who all are impacted with the New I-539 form, I-539A form with Public Benefits?
USCIS I-539 form, I-539A is used by many categories of visa holders as listed below and all of them need to declare regarding their receipt of public benefits, unless their visa category is exempted.
- H1B dependents ( spouse, children) – H4 Visa Holders filing for extension/ change of their status
- L1 Dependents ( spouse, children) – L2 Visa holders filing for extension/ change of their status
- B1 / B2 – Visitor visa holders to extend/ change their status
- F1 Visa for Change of Status (COS), Reinstatements, J1 Holders
- Other visa holders’ dependents like CW-2, E category dependents.
Visa Categories Exempted from filling Public Benefits Section in Form I-539
If you are applying under the below visa categories, then you do not have to provide information related to your receipt of public benefits when using form I-539:
- A1, A2, G1, G2, G3, G4
- NATO1, NATO2, NATO3, NATO4, NATO5, NATO6, NATO7
- T1, T2, T3, T4, T5, T6, U1, U2, U3, U4, U5.
Now that we know, who all are impacted, let’s look the changes.
What is the new version of the form I-539, I-539A form that needs to be used ?
You need to look at the edition of the form at the bottom of the form and the expiration of the form at the top. It should “Edition 10/15/19” and you will also see a bar code. Also, on top, you will also see updated expiration dates from previous forms that says “Expires as 10/31/2021. See below.
What are the changes in New USCIS Forms I-539 for H4, L2, F1 – Extensions, Change of Status?
If you look at the new Form I-539 that is used for Extensions or Change of status, below are the changes:
- There is a new section that is added to the form for Public Benefits. It is Part 5.
- There is a bar code at the bottom of the page.
- The size of the form increased by 1 page.
- The previous Part 5 and above have just got a new incremented number. No changes in their text.
See below the actual new pages with public benefits section, bar code.
What are the changes in the New form I-539A with Public Benefits ?
Similar to above, below are the changes in the new I-539A form, which is used by co-applicants, who file along with the main I-539 applicant.
- There is a new section that is added for Public Benefits, named as Part 3.
- There is a bar code at the bottom of the page.
- The size of the form increased by 2 pages.
- The previous section 3 and above have just got a new incremented number. No changes in their text.
See below the actual new pages with public benefits section. It starts on Page 1 and then continues till page 2 and page 3
How to fill the New I-539 form Part 5. Public Benefits Section?
The USCIS new form I-539 clearly indicates the list of public benefits and you need to select the box accordingly based on your situation and if you utilized any such public benefits. Any other benefits that are not listed in the form are not counted towards the public charges, so no need to worry about them…Below are some key tips to filling the public benefits section Part 5
- Public Benefits Usage Dates to consider for filling form I-539: One important note is that you need to only report public benefits that you have received on or after October 15th, 2019. You do NOT have to disclose any benefits that you have used or received before October 15th, 2019.
- Benefits Utilized for only few months: Even if you have used benefits only for few months, still you need to include them. USCIS will do the math and then check against eligibility
- Continued benefits from Oct 15th, 2019: If you are going to receive benefits in future after Oct 15th, 2019, as part of your current benefits continuation, you need to indicate them there in the section and provide proofs on how long you expect to receive them.
- Proof of Public Benefits Used: If you have used any public benefits, then you need to submit the proofs of the same. The evidence you submit for the public benefit should have the details of your name, contact info of the public agency, type of benefit, dates of the benefits. If you fall under exclusions, you need to submit proofs for the same.
Part 5, Question 1 : Which Option to select, if have not received any benefit ?
Majority of the H4, L2, F1 holders may not have used any of the public benefits. The question 1, under part 5 can seem tricky, if you have never used any benefit. The reason is that you would see something that says “not certified to receive any of the above …”. See below. The concept of certification may not be aware for someone, who have not received any benefit.
What is certification in context of public Benefit ?
In general, for someone to receive a public benefit, you need to get certification from the respective agency. Usually the agency certifies an individual or household for certain period for 6 to 12 months or 24 months to receive public benefits. To get certification you need to provide details of your household, visa status, income, etc, what is required for the benefit. If you not certified by the agency, then you cannot receive the benefit, even if you believe that you are eligible. Also, you may need to get re-certification to continue receiving benefits.
Now that you know what certification means, clearly if you have not used any benefit, you would select the option “No, I have not received any of the above public benefits” and do not need to worry about the certification option. You would select as shown below. This is probably the most common response for H4, L2, F1 holders.
But, if you are eligible for public benefits, but not certified to receive benefits for whatever reason, then you would select the other option that you are not certified to receive benefits that exacts says “No, I am not certified to receive any of the above listed public benefits”
Hope that gives you enough information to fill out the new form I-539 and I-539A. You may also read Public Charge rule impact for F1 students
What do you think of the new I-539 form with Public Benefits Section ? Add your thoughts in comments.