Affidavit of Support
Under U.S. Immigration law, many immigrants who are admitted to the U.S. must prove that they are not inadmissible on “public charge” grounds. In order to satisfy this requirement, all immigrants subject to this rule must show that financial support is or will be available in the U.S. in order to provide for his or her day-to-day needs. This rule acts as a filter to deny admission to immigrants who are likely to require public assistance or welfare once they are in the U.S.
Every family based immigrant who files for an adjustment of status or immigrant visa application (green card) after December 19, 1997 is required to have a sponsor who signs and files a legally enforceable “Affidavit of Support” (Form I-864) on his or her behalf. The Affidavit of Support, however, is much more than a statement confirming that financial support will be available for the sponsored immigrant once in the U.S.; it is actually a contract between the sponsor, the sponsored alien, and the Federal, State, or local government, or any entity which provides “means tested” public benefits to the alien. Since Affidavits of Support are legally enforceable, sponsors who sign them and then later fail to support the immigrants they sponsor can be sued by any Federal, State or local agency or private entity that provides “means-tested benefits” to the immigrant. Immigrants may also sue their sponsors (who sign Affidavits of Support) for failing to support them. Immigration regulations require sponsors to demonstrate they can provide financial support necessary to support the immigrant at an income level of at least 125% of the Federal poverty guidelines for the sponsors household size. The family member who filed the petition for the immigrant must be the sponsor. This rule also applies to employment based immigrants who are coming to the U.S. to work for their relatives or for companies in which their relatives have a “significant ownership interest” (5 percent or more).
In the event that the sponsor cannot meet the required income level (125% of the Federal poverty guidelines) based upon his or her own income, or assets, another person may serve as a joint sponsor to the immigrant. Each joint sponsor must meet the 125% of the poverty line requirement for their household size and may not combine his or her income with the income of the principal sponsor in order to reach the 125% figure. In all cases, however, sponsors must be U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents of the U.S., at least 18 years of age, and live in one of the 50 states, Washington, D.C. or a U.S. territory or possession. The sponsorship obligation under the Affidavit of Support continues to be enforceable until the sponsored alien becomes a U.S. citizen, has worked or can be credited with 40 quarters of work in the U.S., leaves the U.S. permanently, or dies.
The new affidavits of support are only required to be used for family-based and certain employment based immigrants, as provided above. All other immigrants, such as diversity immigrants or lawful permanent residents returning after long absences from the U.S., must file the “old” Affidavit of Support on Form I-134, where there are concerns about inadmissibility on public charge grounds.
If you have questions about your I-864 Affidavit of Support call South Florida Immigration Laywer Sean D. Hummel at (954) 385-3111.