A sponsor on any family-based immigrant visa petition for legal permanent residency (also known as the “green card”) must file a contract with the government known as the Form I-864 ‘Affidavit of Support’. This affidavit demonstrates that the beneficiary foreign national has adequate means of financial support and is not likely to become a public charge. The sponsor must meet tax filing and income or asset requirements and agree to potentially significant financial obligations under the contract.
The sponsor must have filed his or her Federal tax returns for the last three years, if required to do so. The total income noted on the last three filed tax returns must be noted on the Form I-864, but only the most recent Federal tax return (or IRS transcript), including all schedules and Forms W-2 and 1099s, must be filed.
By filing the Form I-864 Affidavit of Support, the financial sponsor must support the sponsored immigrant, if he or she is unable to support him or herself, at 125 percent of the federal poverty level for the sponsor’s household size based on the federal poverty guideline. The sponsor, or his or her household, must have a household income equal to at least 125 percent of the poverty level for his or her household size. One hundred and twenty five percent of the poverty level for a family of two in the contiguous United States is $20,300 (and an additional $5,225 for each additional household member). Income is determined by the sponsor’s total income noted on the most recently filed tax returns as well as by his or her current income. Also, if the sponsor is self-employed, his or her income may not be sufficient if not properly documented. If the income does not meet this standard then the assets or an affidavit of support from a joint sponsor can be used. Also, in certain instances the income or the assets of the sponsored immigrant may be used.
Only assets that can be converted into case within one year without considerable hardship or financial loss to the owner may be included. They must amount to five times the difference between the required income and the household income of the sponsor. In the case of sponsorship of a spouse, the assets must be three times the difference.
The joint sponsor must be at least 18-years-old who is a US citizen or legal permanent resident and who earns sufficient income for his or her household size or has sufficient assets. Household size is a specific legal term and is based on the number of certain family members living with the sponsor, dependents on his or her tax returns and the number of other immigrants sponsored pursuant to an I-864 that came into effect within ten years of the approval of the current immigrant visa or application to adjust status to legal permanent residency (I-485).
The sponsor’s obligation under the I-864 Affidavit of Support continues until the sponsored immigrant becomes a US citizen, can be credited with 40 qualifying quarters of work, departs the US permanently, or dies. Divorce does not terminate my obligation. In addition, the sponsor’s estate remains liable for repayment of benefits that arose before the support obligation ended.
Also, under the contractual obligations of the Form I-864 Affidavit of Support, the sponsor must support the sponsored immigrant financially and reimburse any government agency or private entity that provides the sponsored immigrant with Federal, State, or local means-tested public benefits. Agencies that provide means-tested benefits to intending immigrants will be able to sue the sponsor if he or she does not provide reimbursement for such benefits upon request. The sponsored immigrant may sue the sponsor to enforce the Affidavit of Support.
If any of the information on the Affidavit of Support is known by the sponsor to be false, he or she may be liable for criminal prosecution. The Government may pursue verification of any information provided on the form, including employment, income or assets, with the employer, financial or other institutions, the Internal Revenue Service, or the Social Security Administration.
The sponsor is required to report every change of my address to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (“US CIS”) and the State(s) in which the sponsored immigrant resides, by filing Form I-865, Sponsor’s Notice of Change of Address, with the USCIS within 30 days of any change of address. Failure to give notice of any change of address may result in fines.