If you have filed an immigrant petition on behalf of a family member such as a spouse, child, parent, or sibling, then you must file an affidavit of support form thereby becoming the financial sponsor of that person. An affidavit of support is a legally enforceable document between the sponsor and the US government required for the immigrant petitions described above. By signing the form, the sponsor swears that he/she will be responsible for the financial well being of the intending immigrant, and not allow them to become a public charge.
In order to become a sponsor, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (have a green card). You must also meet certain income requirements which change every year. Generally, you must show that your household income meets or is higher than 125% of the federal poverty guidelines for your household size. You may also use the cash value of your assets and the income of some members of your household. If you cannot meet the minimum income requirements, you must find a joint sponsor who is willing to be financially responsible for the intending immigrant. The joint sponsor must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and must be at least 18 years old. The joint sponsor will have the same responsibilities as the Sponsor.
As noted above, the affidavit of support is a legally enforceable document. This means that the person who signs the document is agreeing to be financially responsible for the intending immigrant until that obligation ends. The responsibilities of a sponsor or joint sponsor include financially supporting the intending immigrant so that they do not become a “public charge’ and rely on certain government financial assistance such as any “means-tested public benefits.” Currently, a “means-tested public benefit” only include government provided cash benefits. However, that may change in the near future due to recently proposed regulations (discussed below). If the intending immigrant receives a means-tested public benefit, the sponsor, joint sponsor, and any household member whose income was used to meet the minimum income requirements will be responsible for repaying the cost of the benefits to the agency that issued those benefits.
A sponsor or joint sponsor’s legal obligations end when the intending immigrant becomes a US Citizen, are credited 40 quarters of work (approximately 10 years), pass away, give up their green card, or are deported from the U.S.
Currently, there is proposed regulations that may change the way a USCIS determines whether someone will become a public charge, and the way the minimum income requirements are calculated. This new proposed regulation makes the affidavit of support legal analysis very complicated and cumbersome. In addition, it is likely that it may restrict low-income immigrants from obtaining green cards. However, the proposed rule has not yet taken effect, and if or when it does, it may look much different than the current proposed regulation. We will post any new updates as they become available.
If you need assistance with sponsoring a family member, please contact our office for a free telephone consultation at (248) 557-4536.