As immigration public charge rule takes effect, National Skills Coalition releases updated fact sheets for workforce and education advocates

By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, February 19, 2020

A recent ruling from the US Supreme Court has cleared the way for the immigration public charge regulation to go into effect, even as litigation against the rule continues in lower courts. The sweeping regulation takes effect nationwide on February 24, 2020.

As the rule goes into effect, National Skills Coalition is releasing a new fact sheet for workforce development practitioners and advocates, as well as updated versions of earlier fact sheets for adult educators and higher education advocates, in light of the ruling. The fact sheets are designed to help advocates answer questions from immigrant students and jobseekers, program staff, and others about the new rule.

Skills advocates can reduce the chilling effect of the rule by reassuring immigrants that participating in education and workforce development programs will help rather than hurt their green-card applications, even if those programs are publicly funded. In addition, education and workforce providers should prepare for a surge in requests for documentation that they may receive from current and former participants who need to demonstrate that they have completed an English class, job training program, or other learning opportunity.

What the public charge rule does

Under the rule, US officials are now going to deny green cards to individuals who are deemed likely to be dependent on the government for support. Officials will weigh a long list of positive and negative factors via a totality of circumstances test to make this determination. These include an immigrant’s age, income, English skills, educational credentials, and use of certain public benefits, among other factors.

(Get details about how immigration officers are being told to interpret the various positive and negative factors in the newly updated US Citizenship and Immigration Services Policy Manual, including the Education and Skills chapter and the totality of circumstances framework.)

In addition to the public charge test facing green card applicants, a narrower version of the test — focusing just on public benefits usage — will be applied to non-immigrants who are living in the U.S. and seeking to extend or change their visa type (e.g. from a student visa to an employment visa).

How the rule affects workforce and education advocates

As the rule takes effect, workforce and education advocates who serve immigrant adult learners and jobseekers face two urgent issues:

  • The need to reassure confused and worried immigrants that participating in adult education, higher education, and workforce development programs will help them – not hurt them – in the public charge test. For example, receiving Pell Grants or participating in a program funded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) will not count against immigrants. On the contrary, immigration officers will view participation in education and training as positive factors.
  • The need to respond to requests from current and past immigrant students and jobseekers for documents verifying their participation in education and training programs. Programs that do not typically issue a certificate of completion or similar document will be asked to issue a letter stating that no such documents are issued by their organization or agency.

Immigrants will be requesting these documents as part of a new form that they are required to submit when applying for a green card, the Form I-944 Declaration of Self-Sufficiency. Examples of the kinds of evidence that immigrants will need to submit with their green-card applications include:

  • College or university degree certificates, diplomas, or transcripts (including a credential evaluation for any degree earned outside the United States)
  • Degrees, diplomas, or transcripts from other educational institutions
  • Completion certificate of English language and literacy programs
  • Completion certificate of workforce skills training
  • Licensures for specific occupations or professions
  • Certificates documenting mastery or apprenticeships in skilled trades or professions

More details are available on page 11 of the instructions for Form I-944.

To aid in navigating this complex new environment, skills advocates are encouraged to print and share NSC’s new fact sheets for adult education, workforce, and higher ed providers with their staff and program participants as appropriate.

More details on the implications of the rule for skills advocates are available in NSC’s earlier blog post on the topic.

Why National Skills Coalition opposed this rule

NSC opposed this rule because it hurts our nation’s efforts to build a skilled workforce. (See our public comment against the rule from December 2018). With record low unemployment, businesses are struggling to fill open positions. Immigrants, who account for one in six US workers, are essential to meeting the demand for skilled workers. But the rule undercuts immigrants’ ability to access training for in-demand jobs. The rule also creates substantial additional burdens on education and workforce development providers trying to help their participants comply with its provisions.