Sponsor Liability on I-864 Affidavit of Support
In order to obtain Lawful Permanent Residency (LPR) status, the sponsored immigrant must submit an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) signed by the sponsor. The Form I-864 Affidavit of Support is required for most family-based petitions, and some employment-based petitions if the petition is submitted by a relative of the beneficiary or by a company in which the relative holds a significant ownership interest. By signing the Affidavit of Support, the sponsor agrees to provide financial support to the sponsored immigrant so that the latter will not become a public charge. In addition, the sponsor has the obligation to maintain the sponsored immigrant and his/her family at an annual income that is not less than 125 percent of the Federal poverty line during the period in which the Affidavit of Support is enforceable. The sponsor’s obligation under the Affidavit of Support start after the sponsored immigrant acquires permanent residence.
The Affidavit of Support is an enforceable contract against the affiant, including the sponsor and joint sponsor. It is enforceable by the sponsored immigrant, the local, state, or federal government, or any agency providing means-tested public benefits. Therefore, if the sponsored immigrant receives means-tested public benefits, the government agencies have standing to sue the sponsor for the reimbursement of these benefits. Means-tested public benefits include Supplemental Security Income (SSI); cash assistance from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and state and local cash assistance program for income maintenance, often called “general assistance” programs. USCIS has provided that certain benefits not subject to public charge consideration, including:
- Medicaid and other health insurance and health services (including public assistance for immunizations and for testing and treatment of symptoms of communicable diseases, use of health clinics, short-term rehabilitation services, prenatal care and emergency medical services) other than support for long-term institutional care
- Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
- Nutrition programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)- commonly referred to as Food Stamps, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program, and other supplementary and emergency food assistance programs
- Housing benefits
- Child care services
- Energy assistance, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Emergency disaster relief
- Foster care and adoption assistance
- Educational assistance (such as attending public school), including benefits under the Head Start Act and aid for elementary, secondary or higher education
- Job training programs
- In-kind, community-based programs, services or assistance (such as soup kitchens, crisis counseling and intervention, and short-term shelter)
- Non-cash benefits under TANF such as subsidized child care or transit subsidies
- Cash payments that have been earned, such as Title II Social Security benefits, government pensions, and veterans' benefits, and other forms of earned benefits
- Unemployment compensation
Therefore, the sponsor is not responsible for reimbursement if the sponsored immigrant receives the above benefits. In addition, the sponsor is not responsible for the sponsored immigrant’s personal debts, such as credit card bills.
The Affidavit of Support is enforceable until the sponsored immigrant (1) naturalizes; (2) ceases to be an LPR and departs the U.S.; (3) obtains a new grant of adjustment of status in a removal proceeding; (4) has earned or been credited with 40 qualifying quarters under Title II of the Social Security Act; or (5) (sponsor or sponsored immigrant) dies. A divorce does not terminate the sponsor’s obligations under the Affidavit of Support.
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