Satisfying the Affidavit of Support Requirement

To satisfy the affidavit of support, the sponsor must prove income at or above the 125% of the poverty income guidelines by providing a social security number and a copy of the most recent tax return. Although not required, the sponsor may file additional tax returns if these may provide additional evidence of financial ability to provide for the intending immigrant.

During these tough economic times is not unusual for a petitioner/sponsor who does not earn enough income by him or herself to reach the 125% of the poverty income guidelines. In such a situation, there are other ways in which a sponsor may satisfy this requirement. These include:

  1. Adding household members’ income to that of the sponsor's income;

  2. Finding a joint sponsor who is able to meet the poverty guideline amount independently; and/or

  3. Using a sponsor's “significant assets".

Household members whose income may be added to the sponsor's income in order to reach the 125% poverty income guideline amount include:

  1. Any person who has lived in that sponsors household for at least the previous six months and is related by birth, marriage, or adoption. This includes the intending immigrant; and/or

  2. Dependents listed on the sponsor's tax return for the most recent tax year.

Note there isn't an age requirement. For instance, if the sponsor’s child works after school, her income may be included in the sponsor's income. However, any household member whose income is to be counted must sign a separate form, Form I-864A. Like the I-864, by signing the I-864A, the household member agrees to accept “joint and several liability" for all the sponsor’s obligations under the affidavit of support. This means that the household member would be held just as responsible as the sponsor if the sponsor was sued in order to pay.

If including household members’ income is not an option, then the petitioner/sponsor may want to find a joint sponsor. The joint sponsor must meet the same requirements as the petitioner/sponsor. Unlike the inclusion of household members’ income, the joint sponsor must be able to meet the requirement by him or herself. The joint sponsor must also file a separate affidavit of support. In doing so, the joint sponsor agrees to accept joint and several liability and thus, has the same responsibility and liability as the petitioner/sponsor.

When a joint sponsor is not available, the petitioner/sponsor may still meet the 125% requirement if he/she has enough "significant assets." To qualify as having significant assets, the assets must meet the following requirements:

  1. The assets must be convertible to cash within one year; and

  2. The net worth of assets must be five times the difference between the sponsor’s actual income and the income the sponsor is required to have.

Examples of significant assets include savings accounts, stocks and bonds, certificates of deposit, life insurance policies, real property, and personal property. Significant assets may also be used by a joint sponsor or household member to meet or help meet the 125% requirement. Assets owned by the intending immigrant may also be counted even if the immigrant and/or the property are in another country.

Obligations Under the Affidavit of Support

The I-864 and I-864A are contracts which are legally enforceable against the sponsor, joint sponsor, and/or any contributing household members. Any federal, state, or local government may sue a sponsor, joint sponsor, or contributing household member to recover the cost of federal or state "means-tested public benefits" received by the immigrant during the period of enforcement of the affidavit of support. In addition to the government, the sponsored immigrant may also sue the sponsor to be supported at a level equal to 125% of the poverty guidelines.

Sponsors, joint sponsors, and contributing household members are also obligated to notify both the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and the state in which the immigrant resides of a change in address. This is done by filing form I-865.

Terminating the Obligation Under the Affidavit of Support

Any of the following events will terminate a sponsor, joint sponsor, and/or any contributing household members’ obligation under the affidavit of support:

  1. The sponsored immigrant becomes a US citizen;
  2. The sponsored immigrant has obtained 40 “qualifying quarters" of employment as reflected by Social Security payments;
  3. The sponsored immigrant is no longer a lawful permanent resident and has left the United States;
  4. The sponsored immigrant dies; or
  5. The sponsor files for bankruptcy. [1]

Moreover, even after the sponsor’s obligation ends, the sponsor will still be liable for debts that accrue before the support obligation ended. Thus, even when the sponsor dies, the sponsor's estate may still be obligated to pay any debt that occurred before the sponsor died.

Summary

In helping a family member to immigrate, most people believe that they are doing the right thing by helping out and agreeing to financially support the intending immigrant. However, most sponsors, joint sponsors and contributing household members do not realize the serious liability and responsibility they are signing up for nor do they understand that the obligation may last the rest of their lives. Thus, before you sign the I-864 Affidavit of Support, or you have questions about your rights and/or obligations, please contact our office.

[1] This is in theory only and there has been no case law regarding the use of bankruptcy to eliminate the sponsor’s liability.