When sponsoring a family member or spouse for a US green card, the petitioner has to meet certain income requirements in order for the US government to be sure that the beneficiary of the petition will not need public assistance once they immigrate to the United States, and if so, that the sponsor will be able to repay the US government for any income-based assistance, such as cash welfare, that is given to the beneficiary.
Form I-864, Affidavit of Support(also referred to as an Affidavit of Financial Support, or an Affidavit of Support Letter for Immigration), is a document that is legally required to be prepared, signed, and submitted by an individual (the sponsor) when petitioning for a spouse or family member (the beneficiary) to receive a US green card. By signing an Affidavit of Support, the sponsor enters into an agreement with the United States government to be financially responsible for the beneficiary once they immigrate to the United States.
What Are The Requirements to Become a Sponsor?
In order to become a sponsor a person must meet the following criteria:
- Be a US citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder)
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Reside in the United States
Income Requirements for Sponsors
An Affidavit of Support requires the sponsor to show that their annual income is at least 125% of that which is needed to support themselves, the beneficiary, and the rest of their household, as established by the Federal Poverty Guidelines. This requirement can be met by providing, for example, proof of:
- Stocks and Bonds
- Other assets
The Federal Poverty Guidelines are adjusted each year. So, it is wise to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to find out the current financial requirements for filing an Affidavit of Support.
What if The Sponsor Can’t Meet The Income Requirements?
Often, if the sponsor is a younger person, or has just started working, they will not have enough income to meet the Affidavit of Support requirements. In this situations, US immigration allows the petitioner to rely on a joint sponsor or a household member.
A joint sponsor is an individual who was not involved in initiating the immigration petition, but who wants to pledge support for the beneficiary. The joint sponsor does not replace the petitioner in the family-based visa process but files a separate Form I-864 to help the petitioner qualify under the income requirements necessary for an affidavit for a green card.
Likewise, a household member, such as a spouse, adult child, parent, or sibling to may file Form I-864a to pledge additional financial support. Moreover, if the beneficiary is the sponsor’s spouse, he or she may use their own income to meet the financial requirements, provided that this income will continue after they have immigrated to the United States.
What Are The Obligations of The Sponsor?
By signing an affidavit of support, the sponsor, joint sponsor, or household member essentially makes three binding legal promises to the United States government:
- If the beneficiary of the visa petition becomes unable to maintain themselves financially, the sponsor will provide them with the necessary financial support.
- To reimburse the United States government for the cost of any means-tested benefits paid to the immigrant, such as cash welfare payments.
- To update the US government of any change in their address within 30 days of moving by filing form I-864W.
Failure to comply with either of the obligations listed above may result in profound legal consequences, for instance:
- If the beneficiary is entitled to support and the sponsor fails to provide this support, he or she can sue the sponsor. If sued, the sponsor will also be required to pay the full cost of the lawsuit, including the beneficiary’s attorney’s fees, which can easily exceed the actual financial liability for support.
- If the beneficiary receives any public benefits from a government agency, the sponsor can be sued by that government agency to recover the costs.
- If the sponsor moves and form I-864W is not filed properly, he or she can be fined up to $5000.
How Long Does The Sponsorship Last?
Once an Affidavit of Support has been signed, the sponsor’s obligation to the beneficiary and (and to the United States government) will last until the first of one of the following five events takes place:
- The beneficiary becomes a US citizen
- The beneficiary is credited with 40 quarters of work
- The beneficiary is no longer a public resident and has left the country
- The beneficiary has been deported and has returned to seek residence under a different I-864
- Either the beneficiary or the sponsor dies
What’s more, in cases where the affidavit of support was signed in relation to a marriage-based green card, the sponsor’s obligation of support for the beneficiary will continue even if the couple gets divorced.
Contact Attorney Eric Price Today!
An Affidavit of Support is a binding legal contract between the person signing the document and the United States government. It is, therefore, extremely important that anyone thinking of signing an Affidavit of Support, as a sponsor, joint sponsor, or household member fully understand the consequences of doing so.
Many people sign Affidavits of Support to assist friends and family members without ever suffering financially for having done so. But, a potential sponsor needs to weigh his or her desire to help a friend or family member against the very real legal obligations that come with signing Form I-864.
If you are thinking about signing an Affidavit of Support for a spouse, family member, or friend first contact Attorney Eric Pricefor more details.