One of the key requirements for obtaining Lawful Permanent Residency (“LPR” Status, also known as a Green Card) through a family petition (Spouse, Parent, Child or Sibling) is the satisfactory completion and acceptance of an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) by a Sponsor. Depending on the conditions of the Immigrant or the Sponsor, there may be a need for documents from household members, joint Sponsors, substitute Sponsors, or it may be not be necessary to establish a financial sponsor at all in a few cases. However, in most cases the submission of an Affidavit of Support by the original Green Card Petitioner is required, even if the Petitioner cannot financially support the immigrant.
The goal of the Affidavit of Support is to serve as a legal contract between the Petitioner/Sponsor of the Green Card and the US Government to ensure that the Immigrant will have the adequate means of financial support and is unlikely to become a public charge after entering the US.
A Petitioner/Sponsor or Joint Sponsor cannot be made to sign the Affidavit of Support, but the intending Immigrant will not be able to get a Green Card if the Sponsor does not sign.
What are the requirements for a Sponsor?
A Sponsor must be 18 years old, a US Citizen or Permanent Resident, maintain domicile/primary residence in the US, and be able to prove the required amount of income/assets. Joint Sponsors do not need to be relatives.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS):
…by signing the [Affidavit of Support] Form I-864, you [the Sponsor] agree to assume certain specific obligations under the [law].
Until the obligations of the Affidavit of Support terminate, the Sponsor must:
— Provide the intending immigrant any support necessary to maintain him or her at an income that is at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for his or her household size (100% if you are the petitioning sponsor and are on active duty in the US Armed Forces and the person is your husband, wife, or unmarried child under 21 years old)
— Notify USCIS of any change in your address, within 30 days of the change, by filing Form I-865.
Note: The Federal Poverty Guidelines and Household Size for these purposes can be found at the USCIS Form I-864p website. Please remember to use the most recent chart.
For example: Based on the 2014 Guidelines, a US Citizen Wife that has no children or other dependents, can be the full Sponsor of their Immigrant Husband (1 Petitioner/Sponsor + 1 Immigrant = Household Size 2). The Petitioner/Sponsor Wife will have to show an annual income of $19,662.00 in most cases (125% of HHS Poverty Guidelines).
What can happen to me if I am a Sponsor of an Affidavit of Support?
If an intending Immigrant becomes a Permanent Resident in the United States based on a Sponsor submitted Form I-864, until the obligations under the Form I-864 ends, the Sponsor’s income and assets may be considered (“deemed”) to be available to the Immigrant in determining whether the immigrant is eligible for certain means-test public benefits and also for a State or local means-tested public benefits, if the State or local government’s rules provide for consideration (“deeming”) of the Sponsor’s income and assets as available to the Immigrant.
This provision does NOT apply to public benefits specific in section 403(c) of the Welfare Reform Act such as, but not limited to, emergency Medicaid, short-term, non-cash emergency relief; services provided under the National School Lunch and Child Nutrition Acts; Immunization and testing and treatment for communicable diseases; and means-tested programs under the Elementary and Secondary Act.
What happens if I do not pay for my Affidavit of Support obligations?
If you do not provide sufficient support to the Immigrant that becomes a Permanent Resident based on the Form I-864 that the Sponsor signed, the Immigrant may sue the Sponsor for this support.
If a Federal, State, or local agency, or a private agency provides any covered means-tested public benefit to the Immigrant who becomes a Permanent Resident based on the Form I-864 that the Sponsor signed, the agency may ask the Sponsor to reimburse them for the amount of the benefits they provided to the Immigration. If the Sponsor does not make the reimbursement, the agency may sue the Sponsor for the amount that the agency believes they owe.
If the Sponsor is sued, and the court enters a judgment against them, the person or agency that sued the Sponsor may use any legally permitted procedures for enforcing or collecting the judgment. The Sponsor may also be required to pay the costs of collection, including attorney fees.
Also, if the Sponsor does not file a properly completed Form I-865 within 30 days of any change of address, USCIS may impose a civil fine for their failure to do so.
When will the obligations and responsibility for the Affidavit of Support end?
The obligations of support under the Form I-864 can end when:
1) The Immigrant becomes a US Citizen;
2) The Immigrant has worked, or can be credited with, 40 quarters of coverage under the Social Security Act;
3) The Immigrant no longer has Lawful Permanent Resident status, and has departed the United States;
4) The Immigrant becomes subject of removal, but applies for and contains in removal proceedings a new grant of adjustment of status, based on a new affidavit of support, if one is required; or
5) The Immigrant Dies.
NOTE: A divorce does not terminate or end the obligations and responsibilities of the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864).
Also note that the obligations do end upon the Sponsor’s death. There, after death, the Sponsor’s Estate will not be required to take responsibility for the Immigrant’s support. However, the Estate may be responsible for any support that was owed before the Sponsor’s death.
In reality, this is rarely an issue, but it can happen. Thus the sponsor must be aware of this legal responsibility.
The following types of people do not need to file an affidavit of support:
1) An individual who has earned or can be credited with 40 qualifying quarters (credits) of work in the United States;
2) An individual who has an approved Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, as a Self-Petitioning Widow or Widower;
3) An individual who has an approved Form I-360 as a battered spouse or child;
4) Orphans adopted by U.S. citizens abroad if a full and formal adoption takes place before the orphan acquires permanent residence and both adoptive parents have seen the child before or during the adoption
Affidavit of Support For Fiancé, Spouse, or Child as a “K Visa” Nonimmigrant
If the Immigrant Relative is either a “K-1” fiancé, a “K-3” spouse, or a “K-2” or “K-4” child of fiancé or spouse, you do not need to submit an Affidavit of Support at the time the Form I-129f is filed. Instead, the Petitioner should submit the I-864 Affidavit of Support at the time that the Immigrant fiancé, spouse, or child files for Adjustment of Status to permanent resident after coming to the United States.
What is a Joint Sponsor for the Affidavit of Support?
A Joint Sponsor is a person that accepts legal responsibility for supporting the Immigrant relative with the original Petitioner/Sponsor. A Joint Sponsor has to meet the same requirements as the Petitioner/Sponsor, except the Joint Sponsor does not need to be related to the immigrant. The income of the Joint Sponsor cannot be combined with the Petitioner/Sponsor.
What do I need to show to be a Sponsor for the Affidavit of Support?
The Sponsor has to provide a copy of your most recent Federal Tax Return with pay stubs (W-2s) and other attached documents required as part of that filing. As well as proof of their current employment. This could include pays stubs for at least the last 6 months and potentially an employer letter. If the Sponsor did not need to file a tax return for any of the last 3 years, they must provide an explanation as to the reason why you did not need to file the tax return. The Sponsor should also provide a copy of proof of your Lawful Permanent Residency in the US or Citizenship.
What happens if the I-864 Sponsor cannot meet the Minimum Income Requirements for the Affidavit of Support?
If the Sponsor cannot meet the minimum income requirements using their earned income, there are other options: The Sponsor can add the cash value of his/her assets, including savings accounts, stocks, bonds and property. To see how much assets are required in dollar amount, subtract the Sponsor’s household income from the minimum income requirement (on Form I-864p). The Sponsor must prove cash value of the assets that are worth five times that amount.
If the Immigrant being sponsored is a spouse or a child (under 18) the minimum cash value of the of the assets must be only three times the difference between the Sponsor’s household income and the amount listed on the Form I-864p chart.
The Sponsor can use the income and assets of the other members of his/her household that are related to you by birth, marriage, or adoption. But they must have been dependents on the Sponsor’s most recent federal tax return or they must have lived with the Sponsor for the last 6 months. A Contract between the Sponsor and Household Member (Form I-864a) must be completed by the Household Member(s) as well.
Regulations: The law concerning affidavits of support is found in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sections 212(a)(4) and 213A. The provisions are codified in Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 8 CFR 213a.
PLEASE CONSULT AN IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY BEFORE MAKING ANY DECISIONS. THIS IS NOT CONSIDERED TO BE LEGAL ADVICE OR A CONSULTATION.