People always say that a new year brings new adventures, new hope and new resolutions. In the immigration world, a new year can bring us a new version of immigration forms, new filing requirements and even more. In January 2023, we see the following updates related to the filing of Adjustment of Status Applications (aka green card applications):

Including Form I-693 Medical Exam Report at the time of filing

People can apply for adjustment of status without a properly completed Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record (“Medical Exam Report”), and submit it later when requested by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. For employment-based applications, since it is rare for USCIS to schedule an in-person interview before making a decision, omitting the Medical Exam Report at the initial filing will unavoidably cause delays because USCIS will have to put the case aside and issue a Request for Evidence asking for this report. On the other hand, since many family-based applicants seeking adjustment of status will be asked to attend an in-person interview at the local USCIS Field Office, they can bring the Medical Exam Report to their interview, and omitting it at the initial filing has no drawbacks.

USCIS has recently informed the public it will expand potential interview waivers for family-based Adjustment of Status applications. As such, USCIS encourages applicants to include the Medical Exam Report at the time of filing to potentially speed up the processing time. Please note that if the applicant didn’t include the Medical Exam Report at the time of filing, they should submit it only when asked by USCIS, otherwise USCIS may not properly add the Medical Exam Report to the correct file.

On a relevant note, USCIS requires the Medical Exam Report to be dated no earlier than 60 days before the applicant filed the underlying application. In response to COVID-19, USCIS temporarily waived the 60-day requirement and this temporary waiver is set to expire on March 31, 2023. A properly and timely completed Medical Exam Report remains valid for two years from the date of the civil surgeon’s signature.

New Public Charge Rule and New Form I-485

On December 23, 2022, a new final rule announced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with respect to the public charge ground of inadmissibility went into effect. Accordingly, USCIS published an updated Policy Manual (effective on December 23, 2022) and a new edition of Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (which must be used by applicants after December 23, 2022).

The new public charge rule essentially codifies a 1999 Interim Field Guidance established by the legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service and it is not a dramatic departure from the 1999 guidance. It provides definitional and procedural guidance to assist USCIS adjudicators in properly evaluating whether an Adjustment of Status applicant is likely to become a public charge.

Under the new public charge rule, an Adjustment of Status applicant is likely to become a public charge only when they are likely at any time to become “primarily dependent” on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or long-term institutionalization at government expense. The new public charge rule does not apply to nonimmigrants.

The new edition of Form I-485 adds additional questions related to public charge, such as the applicant’s education, household income, household assets and liabilities, government benefits they have received, and institutionalizations to which they have been subject. USCIS noted in a September 2022 public stakeholder meeting that it would require no new initial evidence in most Adjustment of Status cases under the new public charge rule.

USCIS created a new Public Charge Resources page, which includes FAQs about which public benefits are considered when making public charge inadmissibility determinations under the new public charge rule.

If you have questions about your particular case, contact the Harris Beach immigration team to discuss the options available to you. Our Immigration Law Practice Group includes immigration attorneys who work across New York State in our Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester and Syracuse offices. Our immigration lawyers focus on strategies – including immigrant visas for permanent U.S. resident status and temporary visas for foreign nationals – to ensure companies are able to hire, transfer and retain the brightest and best non-U.S. talent.

This alert is not a substitute for advice of counsel on specific legal issues.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York state, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse and White Plains, as well as Washington D.C., New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.