Before Signing the Affidavit of Support
Affidavit of Support, also called Form I-864, is a legally enforceable contract you will be required to fill when sponsoring an immigrant who is not empowered to fulfil their financial obligations. You can fill out this form as a major sponsor or sign it as a joint sponsor.
Family-based immigrants and some employment-based immigrants must submit this form which has to be signed by a US citizen or green card holder in their applications to show that they have a reliable source of financial support and wouldn’t have to rely on the government.
In a situation where the major sponsor’s income is not enough to be financially responsible for an immigrant and his/her family members, the need for a joint sponsor sets in. A joint sponsor might be a friend or family member of the green card holder.
Whether you are signing Form I-864 as a major or joint sponsor, you should know your legal obligation and financial obligation to understand if you are willing and able to fulfil your responsibility.
Study the financial responsibilities, legal responsibilities, and legal fees attached to this form carefully. There is a simpler version of the Affidavit of Support form known as “Form I-864EZ.” You can support an immigrant based on your income’s capability.
If you are sponsoring just one immigrant and you have a single means of income (retirement wages or earnings from business), once your minimum income requirement meets the criteria of the federal poverty guidelines in either form (Form I-864 or Form I-864EZ), you’ll be able to provide support for the immigrant.
- Before Signing the Affidavit of Support
- What are the Requirements to be a Financial Sponsor?
- Who Can Sponsor an Immigrant in the US?
- Liabilities of Sponsoring an Immigrant
- Financial Support for Immigrants
- How Much Income Do You Need to Sponsor an Immigrant in 2022?
- How Long Are You Responsible for an Immigrant?
- How Can IAS Help?
What are the Requirements to be a Financial Sponsor?
Below are some requirements that qualify any US citizen or green card holder to be a sponsor. These requirements also hold for joint sponsors.
- A sponsor must be a US citizen or a permanent resident of the US.
- A sponsor must live in the US and have ties with the country like keeping a US bank account, filing tax return, etc.
- They must be at least 18 years old.
Also, note that a sponsor must be financially secure enough to support an immigrant. Where a joint sponsor has to come in, the joint sponsor’s income, household income, and assets must also meet the poverty guidelines by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which is a government agency in the United States.
Who Can Sponsor an Immigrant in the US?
Only US citizens can sponsor an Immigrant. However, they can only sponsor immigrants who are family members. You can petition to bring your household member into the United States with you through a family-based green card.
Once you take on the immigrant’s financial needs such that they won’t need to rely on public assistance benefits for sustenance, you can be recognized as their financial sponsor by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) administered by the Department of Homeland Security.
Risks from the Immigrant
Sponsoring an immigrant financially is weightier to a green card holder than to the sponsored immigrant because the bulk of legal and financial responsibilities rest on the permanent resident and will remain so for at least, a decade in most cases. Here are specific risks you are taking when you sponsor or act as a joint sponsor to an immigrant, even when the person is a family member:
Immigrant May Sue You for Financial Support
Your legal responsibility as a green card holder is to ensure that the immigrant has enough money to meet the poverty line. If the sponsored immigrant has to rely on public benefits to reside in the country, you are already failing in your responsibility and the immigrant can sue you for not meeting up.
Note that you are not responsible for the immigrant’s bills, debts and tax return. Should your sponsored immigrant file a financial support suit because you have been delinquent, the state will side with them and you may even have to pay legal fees for the suit.
Sponsorship is not Necessarily Terminated by Divorce
Your immigrant spouse reserves the right to be sponsored by you even if you are divorced. Sponsorship liabilities do not end with divorce, regardless of the reasons for the divorce. In fact, cases where an immigrant is a battered spouse may get the petitioning spouse paying additional support fees.
Since sponsorship responsibilities are likely to continue well into 10 years, spousal support for former spouse is likely to remain in short-term marriages which are marriages that are less than 10 years.
Risk from the Government
As the state puts more responsibility regarding the welfare of an immigrant on the green card holder and joint sponsor (where applicable), it is always ready to hold sponsors legally responsible.
US Government May Sue You for Reimbursement
Part of the support requirements for financial sponsors is to repay the government when immigrants use public benefits. Waiting to be asked for the repayment may be waiting too long as it may be done through a suit. If you are aware an immigrant has accessed public benefits and you try to escape the responsibility to pay the government back, you may be fined between $2,000 to $5,000. To avoid civil suits from the government, voluntarily repay any debt accrued from the benefits the immigrant receives.
USCIS May Fine You
Sponsorship is a long-term responsibility that many sponsors want to escape. But the USCIS has made it impossible to hide as sponsors are required to notify the agency about any change of address within 10 days whenever they move. Failure to do so may result in a civil lawsuit and a fine between $250 and $2,000.
The Opportunity Cost
Choosing to sponsor or act as a joint sponsor may mean that you won’t have the resources to later sponsor another person even if you desire to do so. With such limited opportunity to obtain US permanent residence for others, you are risking your slot and resources on the immigrant you have chosen compared to those you may later lack the means to help. This is a huge commitment especially if taken for an immigrant that is not an immediate family member.
The Additional Cost in a Worst Case Scenario
Life happens. Plans change. Businesses go bankrupt and people lose their jobs. Yet, none of these financial setbacks will relieve you of your sponsorship obligations. The additional financial burden may complicate an already tough season.
Financial Support for Immigrants
After filling out the Affidavit of Support form, you’ll be able to provide support by remitting funds to sponsored immigrants. The US Department of Home Security made some financial propositions about this in the financial requirements. These propositions describe how and what amount of funds to direct to immigrants’ purses.
The Form I-864 affidavit of support is an agreement form with some requirements signed by a sponsor to take up the financial responsibility of an immigrant. Thus, every sponsor must meet all requirements in this form and carry out all the financial obligations stated in it.
Acting as Their Financial Sponsor
An immigrant can be supported from your income if you have signed to be their financial sponsor. If the immigrant is your spouse, the same applies provided your household income will suffice. if it wouldn’t, other adult members of your household can support as joint sponsors.
Acting as a Reputable Individual Before the USCIS
US law permits citizens who fit into the “Reputable individuals” bill to guide an immigrant through the application, petition and request process. Reputable individuals can be a relative, neighbor, business associate or personal friend. To act as one, you first need to submit a statement that states the following to the relevant USCIS/DHS official:
- The immigrant personally requested for your help
- You were not paid any fee to help them
- You have a pre-existing relationship with them
- You are not regularly involved in immigration practice
- You do not present yourself to the public as qualified to engage in immigration practice or preparation.
Note that your involvement does not contribute to the financial sponsorship requirement the immigrant needs from a green card holder.
Moreover, the help provided by reputable individuals is limited to reading a form, translating the form and writing down information provided. As such, their opinions do not constitute legal advice in immigration cases.
To provide the needed financial support as a green card holder or US citizen, it is advisable to work with a competent immigration attorney from a reputable law firm.
How Long Are You Responsible for an Immigrant?
Once an immigrant becomes a US citizen (green card holder) or has earned 40 work quarters traceable to social security, you no longer bear any sponsor’s obligations towards them. The same also applies if the immigrant relocates outside the US permanently or dies.
However, where none of these conditions have been met, you are legally responsible for financially supporting the immigrant. If they use any means-tested public benefits, you have the responsibility to refund the government without waiting to be asked for a refund.
How Much Income Do You Need to Sponsor an Immigrant in 2022?
Your income must reach at least the required 125% federal poverty line for your household size if you are a civil spouse or sponsor. Before you can sponsor an immigrant to the US, you must be a lawful permanent resident or US citizen who currently resides in the US. If you do not currently reside in the US, you must be able to prove that your residence abroad is temporary and you still intend to come back to your home country.
After meeting the legal responsibility to provide financial support to an immigrant, you need to meet the HHS Poverty Guidelines which became effective in March 2022. For sponsors who are on active duty in the US Army, the minimum income requirement is 100% of the poverty line for their household size. However, this discount is only valid for the spouse and child of a petitioning spouse.
For a household size of 2 people, the minimum earnings requirement for a civilian household is $22,887 while it is $18,310 for a military household of the same size in the US mainland. The requirement varies for Alaska which has $28,612 for a 2-people civilian household and $22,890 for a military household of 2 people. In Hawaii, $26,325 is the minimum requirement for a civilian household size of 2 people while it is $21,060 for a military household of the same size.
Green card holders and US citizens who work for multinationals or remotely can also use their foreign income to file the Affidavit of Support. Those currently living and earning outside the US may be able to use their income if they can prove that they will retain their jobs after coming back to the US or that they will get a new job that will support their sponsor’s obligations.
However, if your income fails to meet the minimum requirement, you can add your assets. If your assets along wouldn’t suffice, you may get a household member to add their income as a joint sponsor. Assets refer to items that can be converted to cash within a year without causing financial stress and distress for your own household regardless of its size. Examples of assets that can be valued with income are; bank accounts, real estate properties, stocks, and bonds.
How Can IAS Help?
Taking on the financial obligations of an immigrant is a huge investment that will last for about a decade. It requires careful consideration, proper planning and accurate projections about the future.
Since there is no running from it once you commit to it, you need to safeguard your interest every step of the way by engaging the services of a professional immigration lawyer.
Last modified on December 22nd, 2022 at 12:42 am
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