Responsibilities and Obligations of a Sponsor

Responsibilities and Obligations of a Sponsor

The Form I-864, affidavit of support, is a legally binding contract between a sponsor and the U.S. Government. In order for any contract to be valid, in exchange for the obligation, there should be a consideration. The intending immigrant becoming a permanent resident is the “consideration” of the contract. If the sponsor does not understand their obligations, consulting an immigration attorney is recommended.

You must convey on this form that you have enough income and/or assets to maintain 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for the intending immigrant(s) and the rest of the household (100 percent if you are the petitioning sponsor, are on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, and the intending immigrant is your husband, wife, or unmarried child under 21 years old).

Under this contract, you agree that in the process of deciding that if the intending immigrant can establish him/herself as inadmissible to the U.S. as an alien likely to become a public charge, the U.S. Government can consider your income and assets to be available to support the intending immigrant.

When you sign the affidavit of support, you accept legal responsibility to financially support the sponsored immigrant(s) during the obligation duration, as described below. Any joint sponsors or household members whose income is used to meet the minimum income requirements are also legally responsible for financially supporting the sponsored immigrant(s). When you sign the I-864 Form, you are agreeing to use your resources to support the intending immigrant(s) named in this form, if necessary.

Your income and assets may be deemed available to the intending immigrant, when determining whether they are eligible for certain federal and state or local means-tested public benefits, if the state or local government’s rules provide for consideration of your income and assets as available to that person. In simpler terms, the submission of this form may cause the sponsored immigrant to be ineligible for these benefits.

If you do not provide sufficient support to the person who becomes a permanent resident based on the Form I-864 that you signed, that person may sue you for this support.

If the immigrant receives any “means-tested public benefits,” you are responsible for repaying the cost of those benefits to the agency that provided them. If the debt is not repaid, the agency can sue you in court to receive the money owed. When in doubt, ask the benefit provider if the benefit is a “means-tested public benefit.”

If you are sued, and the court judgment is entered against you, the person or entity that sued you may use any legally permitted procedures to enforce or collect the judgement. You may also be required to pay the costs of collection, including attorney fees.

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Means-Tested Public Benefits

Federal Means-Tested Public Benefits: To date, federal agencies administering benefit programs have determined that federal means-tested public benefits include the following: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps , Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

State Means-Tested Public Benefits: Each state will determine which, if any, of its public benefits are means-tested. If a state determines that a program meets this definition, the state is encouraged to notify the public which programs are included. To determine which, if any, state assistance programs have been included, check with the state public assistance office.

Programs Not Included: Federal and state programs that do not qualify as means-tested benefits include emergency Medicaid; short-term, non-cash emergency relief; services provided under the National School Lunch and Child Nutrition Acts; immunizations, testing, and treatment for communicable diseases; student assistance under the Higher Education Act and Public Health Service Act; certain forms of foster care or adoption assistance under the Social Security Act; Head Start Programs; means-tested programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; and Job Training Partnership Act programs.

Obligation Duration

The I-864 is a commitment to act as the financial sponsor of the applicant once he/she arrives in the United States, and financial responsibility continues for the person who becomes a permanent resident based on a I-864 that you signed until that person:

  • Becomes a U.S. citizen;

  • Has worked or can be credited with 40 quarters (usually 10 years) of coverage under the Social Security Act; In certain cases, the work of a spouse or parent adds qualifying quarters

  • Ceases to be a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. and departs the country.

  • Becomes subject to removal, but applies for and obtains in removal proceedings a new grant of adjustment of status, based on a new affidavit of support, if one is required; or

  • Dies.

A divorce does not end the sponsorship obligation.

If you die, your estate will not be required to take responsibility for the person’s support after your death. Your estate may, however, be responsible for any support that you owed before your death.

The obligation of household members who signed Form I-864A and joint sponsors end at the same time the obligation of the petitioning sponsor ends.

Sponsor’s Change of Address

If you change your address after you become a sponsor, you are required by federal law to notify the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within 30 days of the change by filing USCIS Form I-865, Sponsor’s Notice of Change of Address. You will need to send it to the USCIS Service Center that has jurisdiction over your new address.

You must continue to notify USCIS of each change of address until your obligation as a sponsor ends. This is required so the government can continue to contact you regarding fulfilling your obligations. If you fail to notify the USCIS of a change of address, you may be fined anywhere from $250 to $5,000.

Do not complete the Form I-865 at the same time you complete the I-864. A Form I-865 should only be filed if the original address listed on the Form I-864 has changed.

For permanent resident sponsors, this requirement is in addition to filing a Form AR-11 for reporting a change of address.

You should send a Form I-865 to the USCIS Service Center that has jurisdiction over your new residence.

You should make a copy of the completed Form I-865 and save it with the evidence that you sent the original Form I-865 to the correct USCIS office and evidence that USCIS received the original Form I-865. USCIS will accept this documentation as proof that you complied with the requirement to file a Form I-865. Evidence can be USPS certified mail receipt, Express Mail shipping mail along with a return receipt, both bearing postmarks and the address where you mailed Form I-865. If you sent Form I-865 using a private courier, you should keep a copy of the shipping label and signature proof of delivery.

Use and Sharing of Information

The information provided in the affidavit of support will be used primarily by an immigration judge, USCIS, or a consular officer to make sure that the sponsor has an adequate means of financial support and intending immigrant(s) will not become a public charge.

This information may also be disclosed to other federal, state, or local agencies providing means-tested public benefits for use in civil action against the sponsor in the case of breach of contract.

Social Security numbers may be verified with the Social Security Administration. It may also be disclosed to other federal, state, local, and foreign law enforcement and regulatory agencies to enable these entities to carry out their law enforcement responsibilities.

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