For many foreigners who seek to obtain permanent U.S. residence through family-based or employment-based applications, the Affidavit of Support INS Form must be filed. This law was implemented in 1996 to further ensure that foreigners likely to become public charges were not admitted to the U.S. The Affidavit of Support requirement is an inevitable requirement that must be satisfied in order for many foreigners to ultimately obtain legal permanent residence.

The Form I-864, Affidavit of Support is a legally binding contract in which the family sponsor commits to providing financial support to the foreign relative beneficiary. This contract is enforceable for a considerable period of time and does not end by the termination of the family relationship, or by a divorce. The Affidavit of Support can only be terminated once the sponsored immigrant naturalizes or when he or she has worked or can be credited with 40 qualifying quarters of work as defined by the Social Security Act. The contractual obligation also ends if the sponsored immigrant dies or is no longer a lawful permanent resident and has departed the U.S.