Affidavit of Support - What is a financial sponsor and who qualifies?
When U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (Green Card holders) file an application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for one of their relatives, they are usually required to sign a Form called “Affidavit of Support” (Form I-864). This form is a contract the petitioner signs agreeing to use their financial resources to support the intending immigrant named on the affidavit. The individual who signs the affidavit of support becomes the “sponsor” once the intending immigrant becomes a lawful permanent resident.
What is a financial sponsor?
As mentioned above, the financial sponsor is the American citizen or Green Card holder who is offering sponsorship or financial support for immigration purposes on behalf of a family-based green card applicant.
What are the responsibilities of a financial sponsor?
When you sign the affidavit of support, you accept legal responsibility for financially supporting the sponsored immigrant(s). This means that, if an immigrant you sponsored receives any means-tested public benefits, you are responsible for repaying the cost of those benefits to the agency that provided them. If you do not repay the debt, the agency or USCIS may contact you to get the money owed.
Any joint sponsors and household members who allowed the sponsor to combine their income with the sponsor’s income to meet the minimum income requirements are also legally responsible for financially supporting the sponsored immigrant. In fact, any joint sponsor and household member is jointly or severally liable with the petitioning sponsor, meaning that the joint sponsor and household member are independently liable for the full extent of the reimbursement obligation and can be sued in court or be asked to pay the money owed, even if the petitioning sponsor is not sued or asked for money.
When does this responsibility end?
The sponsor's responsibility generally lasts until the family member becomes a U.S. citizen or receives the 40 quarters of work credit (usually 10 years). This responsibility can also be terminated if the financial sponsor or the sponsored individual dies or if the sponsored individual ceases to be a lawful permanent resident and leaves the United States. It is also important to make it clear that divorce does not end the sponsorship obligation.
What are the requirements to be a sponsor?
You must be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
You must be domiciled in the United States or in a territory or possession of the United States. If you live abroad, you may still qualify to be a sponsor if you can demonstrate that your residence abroad is temporary and that you are still domiciled in the United States.
You must demonstrate that your family income is equal to or greater than 125% of the US poverty level for the size of your family. (The size of your family includes you, your dependents, relatives living with you and the immigrants you are sponsoring).
To find out if you are above the poverty level, go to https://www.uscis.gov/i-864p.
If you, the sponsor, are on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States, and the immigrant you are sponsoring is your spouse or child, your income only needs to equal 100% of the U.S. poverty level for your household size.
What if you, as the petitioner, do not meet the requirements?
If you, and your household members, cannot meet the minimum income requirements using your salary income, you may also add the cash value of your assets. This includes money in savings accounts, stocks, bonds, and property.
However, if you still do not meet the required amount to financially sponsor your relative, you may also request the support of a “joint sponsor.” A joint sponsor must meet all the same requirements as you, except the joint sponsor does not need to be related to the immigrant. The joint sponsor (or the joint sponsor and his or her household) must reach the 125% income requirement alone.
If you are unsure regarding the responsibilities of a sponsor and whether you qualify on your own or if you will need the help of a joint sponsor, please reach out to us and we will help you determine what the best options are for your specific case.