Being the sponsor for an alien wishing to enter the United States is a legal responsibility. The government requires sponsors to fully support the alien. Any individual who would like to support a person applying for a family based green card (United States lawful permanent residence) must complete an Affidavit of Support for that individual. In order to complete this affidavit a Form I-864, published by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is required. This form must be completed in its entirety. For more useful resources on family-based green cards, review the following pages:
If the principal sponsor does not make enough income to fully provide for the alien they wish to sponsor, they will also be required to fill out a Form I-864 for a family member or friend. This will make the friend or relative a joint sponsor of the alien and therefore make them legally responsible for supporting the alien.
When an individual signs a Form I-864 Affidavit of Support they should bear in mind that this is a very serious matter with enforceable legal ramifications. The sponsor must be sure they truly trust the motives of the alien they wish to sponsors. It is also important that they are sure to read and fully understand all the instructions on any forms requiring a signature.
Understanding Form I-864
Form I-864 is the long version; some sponsors may be able to fill out the more minimal Form I-864EZ. To qualify for filling out this much simpler version one must determine if they meet the following requirements:
- Are sponsoring just one alien
- All income earned is from wages, salary or retirement and is documented on a W-2
- The income meets or exceeds poverty guideline standards
Obligations of the Sponsors
The law clearly places more responsibility on the sponsor than on the alien being supported. If the alien chooses to leave or quit their current job, they could actually sue their sponsor for means of support. Therefore it is of up-most importance that sponsors understand that by signing the Form I-864 Affidavit of Support they are signing a legal contract. If they fail in their duty to not adequately support the alien they are sponsoring, they can be taken to court.
If the sponsor is sued by the government, enough money can be collected to repay all public entities that provided benefits or assistance to the alien. If the alien chooses to sue their sponsor, they can ask for enough income to bring them up to 125% of the amount written in the U.S. Poverty Guidelines. This amount can be found in Form I-864P.
Guidelines state that the sponsors must continue to support the alien until:
- The alien becomes a U.S. citizen
- 40 work quarters have been earned and credited toward Social Security (Work credits earned by the alien before applying for a green card are credited toward the 40. Work done by a sponsoring spouse is also credited.)
- The alien dies
- The alien leaves the United States permanently
Sponsor Obligations Upon Divorce
If the sponsor is married to the alien the sponsor remains responsible for the alien even upon divorce from the alien. This means the divorced alien can legally sue their former spouse for financial support. A contract stating that this won’t be done can be signed, but court support of such documents remains unclear.
Requirements For Becoming A Financial Sponsor
Anyone wishing to be an alien’s financial sponsor must meet the following requirements:
- Must be a United States citizen
- Must be at least 18 years of age or older
- Must live in the United States or one of its territories
Pertaining to item number three; if the sponsor and alien are currently living abroad the sponsor will be required to prove their absence is only temporary and that they have maintained United States ties or that the sponsor will return to the United States by the time the alien is accepted as a legal resident. To prove that ties to the United States have continued to be maintained the sponsor can show that they have continued to pay taxes, have one or more active United States bank accounts, have a United States mailing address or have continued to vote in elections.
The sponsor must also be able to fully financially support the alien they are sponsoring. If the sponsor cannot meet the poverty guidelines he or she must sign an Affidavit of Support. They will also need to find more individuals to sign as joint sponsors for the alien.
If the alien is already earning income and that source of income will remain the same upon acquiring a green card, that income can be added to the sponsor’s earnings to help them meet the income guideline. In this way a sponsor would not have to find a joint sponsor.
Important Information for Potential Sponsors
Some sponsors may think they can get out of their financial responsibility to the alien they are supporting. Sponsors who attempt to shirk these responsibilities will be fined. Sponsors may think they can avoid their obligations by relocating. In anticipation of this, the United States government requires sponsors to provide their new address to the USCIS on Form I-865 within 30 days of moving. Anyone who violates this rule will be fined anywhere from $250 to $2,000 or $5,000 if the alien has received public assistance.