A US citizen or a lawful permanent resident in the United States must establish that he can financially support the person who is sponsored by him, for permanent resident status in the United States. This is to show that the visa applicants will not become a public charge in the United States and that they have sponsors in the United States. A sponsor does this by filing an affidavit of support.
The person who sponsors a relative for permanent resident status in the United States, must file separate affidavit of support forms for each relative. The sponsor must sign the affidavit of support document in order to accept financial responsibility for his relative who will enter the United States to live there as a lawful permanent resident. The sponsor who signs the affidavit of support form for the relative is also referred to as the petitioner. On signing the affidavit of support, the responsibility of the sponsor will last until the sponsored relative becomes a US citizen. This affidavit is legally enforceable.
Filing an Affidavit of Support
The sponsoring US citizen or Green Card holder must complete Form I-864. This has to be done when an immigrant visa interview for your relative is scheduled with a Consular officer overseas. You can also file Form I-864 when your relative is about to file an application with the USCIS for adjustment of status to adjust his status to permanent resident status in the United States. If the income of other members of the household will be used to sponsor the relative, then each family member must complete separate Form I-864A, Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member, to accept legal responsibility to support the sponsoring relative. Similarly, a joint sponsor must complete a separate Form I-864.
While filing Form I-864, you must provide your US federal income tax returns along with a proof of your current employment. You will be required to provide an explanation, if you were not required to file your tax returns in the previous years. Failure to provide information about your tax returns will result in the denial of an immigrant visa for your relative. After you complete the affidavit of support form along with the required documentation and after getting it certified by the US consular or immigration officer, you must send the packet containing the information to your relative, to submit it along with his application for lawful permanent resident status in the United States.
Duties as a Sponsor
On signing the affidavit of support, you accept that you will be legally responsible to support your sponsored relative, for permanent resident status in the United States, financially. This is legally binding until your relative becomes a US citizen or if the sponsored relative ceases to be a Green Card holder in the United States and leaves America. You will also be responsible for repaying the cost of benefits, if the sponsored relative receives any “means-tested public benefits”. The joint sponsors and household members who signed the affidavit of support forms will also be responsible to financially support the sponsored relative.