Making The American Dream Attainable

Family-Based Visas

One of the aspects of sponsoring someone on a family-based green card application is complying with the financial sponsorship requirements. If you are sponsoring someone for a family-based green card (U.S. lawful permanent residence), in order to petition for a person to obtain their lawful permanent status, an Affidavit of Support is required. This is done to secure that if the immigrant applies for certain public benefits, you agree to repay those benefits. The financial portions of the document require the sponsor to fill in information about wages, assets and other forms of income. There is a financial threshold for each sponsor based upon the amount of people living in the household and other individuals sponsored. In order to determine how much money must be used for the sponsorship, you can look at the I-864 P for each set of circumstances. Sometimes, the sponsor’s income is insufficient, so another sponsor, or perhaps more than one additional sponsor, is required. This can make a case more complicated and cause United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or Department of State (DOS) to ask more questions about the case. It is important to note that even if the sponsor’s income and assets are lower than the Poverty Guidelines demand, he or she must sign an Affidavit of Support. This is true even where a joint sponsor is required in a case.

The form I-864 Affidavit of Support is a legally enforceable contract, which means that if the sponsor fails to provide adequate support to the immigrant, the government or the immigrant can enforce a breach of contract action against the sponsor. The law places more obligations on the sponsor than on the immigrant – the immigrant could decide to quit a job and sue the sponsor for support.

When the government sues the sponsor, it can collect enough money to compensate public agencies that have assisted the immigrant.  When the immigrant sues, he or she can collect enough money to bring his or her income up to 125% of the amount listed in the U.S. government’s Poverty Guidelines (as shown in the chart in Form I-864P).

The sponsor is responsible for the immigrant until they become a U.S. citizen, earn 40 work quarters credited towards Social Security (a work quarter is about three months, so this means about ten years of work), dies, or leaves the U.S. permanently. If the immigrant has earned work credits while living in the U.S. before applying for lawful permanent resident status, then those hours will count towards the 40 work quarters.

In order to qualify as the sponsor, the person must satisfy the following requirements:

  • A U.S. citizen, national, or permanent resident
  • At least 18 years of age
  • Live in the United States or a U.S. territory or possession

Where the case is being prepared for consular filing, or the immigrant and/or sponsor reside overseas, the consulate may require proof that sponsor show that this is a temporary absence abroad, that the sponsor has maintained ties to the U.S., and that he or she intends to reestablish domicile there no later than the date that the immigrant is admitted as a permanent resident.

Take particular note of the third requirement above if both the sponsor and the would-be immigrant are presently living outside the US. The consulate will require that the sponsor show either that this is a temporary absence and that the sponsor has maintained ties to the US, or that he or she intends to reside and be domiciled in the US when the immigrant is admitted as a legal permanent resident. Some of the other ways the sponsor can show having maintained ties to the US include having paid state or local taxes, kept US bank accounts, kept a permanent US mailing address, or voted in US elections.

Finally, for sponsors who fail to honor their obligations under an I-864, there can be fines imposed. If for example, a sponsor, moves without providing an updated address via I-865 within 30 days of moving, there can be fines between $250 and $5,000 imposed.