Most persons being sponsored for permanent status (green card) in the United States must meet certain financial requirements, or have a sponsor that meets these requirements. Here are the legal obligations the signatory of Form I-864 Affidavit of Support.
What is USCIS Form I-864 Affidavit of Support?
The USCIS Form I-864 Affidavit of Support is a legally enforceable contract entered into by a US citizen or US permanent resident agreeing to financially support an intending immigrant to the US. The signatory of the affidavit of support becomes the financial sponsor once the intending immigrant becomes a lawful permanent resident. If you sign the affidavit of support, you accept legal responsibility for financially supporting the sponsored immigrant(s), generally until they become US citizens or are credited with 40 quarters of work.
How long does the affidavit of support last?
The affidavit of support and the sponsor’s responsibility can last until the beneficiary either becomes a US citizen or is credited with 40 quarters of work (usually 10 years). Your obligation as a sponsor also ends if you or the individual sponsored becomes a US citizen, dies, or if the individual sponsored ceases to be a lawful permanent resident and departs the United States.
How does divorce impact the affidavit of support?
Divorce does NOT end the sponsorship obligation.
What are my obligations under the affidavit of support?
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 the immigrant can sue you in court 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 are 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.
The complete financial support requirements are detailed in USCIS Form I-864P Poverty Guidelines.
What is a “means-tested public benefit?”
Federal means-tested public benefits include food stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Each state will determine which, if any, of its public benefits are means-tested. If a state determines it has programs that meet this definition, we encourage them to notify the public on which programs are included. You can also check with the state public assistance office for more information.
The following federal and state programs are NOT included as means-tested benefits:
- Emergency Medicaid
- Short-term, non-cash emergency relief
- Services provided under the National School Lunch and Child Nutrition Acts
- Immunizations and testing and treatment for communicable diseases
- Student assistance under the Higher Education Act and the Public Health Service Act
- Certain forms of foster-care or adoption assistance under the Social Security Act
- Head Start programs
- Means-tested programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
- Job Training Partnership Act programs
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