To ensure that a person looking to receive a green card and become a permanent U.S. resident is being adequately supported from a financial standpoint, the applicant has to go through a process in which a family member agrees to act as a sponsor. In the event that the sponsoring family member doesn’t make enough money, another person, such as another relative or a close friend, may act as a joint sponsor.
Being a sponsor to a prospective green card holder requires that the sponsor fill out and submit Form I-864, the Affidavit of Support, to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This form requires information related to the sponsored individual and any other immigrants the applicant is sponsoring (such as dependents or other family members). It also asks about the sponsor, his or her family, income, employment and assets, and includes space for the sponsor to acknowledge that they understand the requirements of sponsorship. As the Affidavit of Support is a legal document, it might be helpful to have a skilled immigration attorney walk you through it if you have questions or concerns.
WHO CAN BE A SPONSOR?
The basic requirements for acting as a financial sponsor to a prospective immigrant are pretty straightforward: you must be a U.S. citizen, national or permanent resident living in the U.S. or an American territory, and you must be at least 18 years old.
However, there are other requirements having to do with financial matters, and this is where becoming a sponsor is not so simple. Essentially, a sponsor needs to be earning enough to support their own household as well as the prospective immigrant (and any others they may be sponsoring). What constitutes “enough” is determined using the government’s poverty guidelines, which are developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and available in Form I-864P. The actual numbers are based on household size, but generally a sponsor must make 125 percent of the poverty guidelines, at minimum. Otherwise, a joint sponsor will need to be found.
WHAT DOES A SPONSOR DO?
Being a sponsor requires taking on a significant amount of responsibility, as it signifies that the sponsor promises to support the prospective immigrant. A would-be immigrant can, in fact, sue their sponsor in the event that they fail to provide the required financial support. The Affidavit of Support also indicates that a sponsor who pledges to support their spouse is still required to do so even in the event that they divorce.
The sponsor’s role ends with full U.S. citizenship, 10 years of work, death or permanent departure from the United States on the part of the prospective immigrant.
Given the seriousness of sponsoring a prospective immigrant and the level of potential risk involved, this is not a process you should enter into without having as much information as possible and a clear understanding of what you’re doing. An attorney with expertise and knowledge related to U.S. immigrant visas can help.