A U.S. 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. There are two affidavits of support forms and only one should be filed if sponsored by U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
The person who sponsors a relative for permanent resident status in the United States must file a separate affidavit of support forms for each relative. The sponsor must sign the affidavit of support documentation 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 U.S. citizen. This affidavit is legally enforceable.
Filing an Affidavit of Support
The sponsoring U.S. 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 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 U.S. 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 for financially supporting the sponsored relative.
If you are a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident of the United States and if you wish to sponsor your family member for lawful status in the United States, you will have to know about the sponsorship process.
Generally, U.S. citizens and Green Card holders, who file Form I-130 for their family members must file Form I-864, Affidavit of Support and this affidavit of support is a contract between the government of the United States and the sponsor. As a sponsor, you must meet a few poverty guidelines and prove that you are capable of supporting yourself and the beneficiary financially and this does not mean that only wealthy individuals can sponsor their relatives.
By signing Form I-864, you accept to sponsor the beneficiary financially. In order to make sure that the immigrants do not become a burden to the United States financially, US citizens and Green Card holders who sponsor their relatives must sign Form I-864 and prove that they will sponsor their relatives financially. If your documented income is insufficient, you can still sponsor your relatives if another member of your household, is willing to sponsor the relative.
Hence, if your family member’s income when combined with yours meets the affidavit of support requirements, you and your family member can file Form I-864A(contract between you and your family member) along with Form I-864, and sponsor your relative. Remember that, in order to sponsor a relative, you and the joint sponsor, must both be U.S. citizens or Green Card holders and above age 18.
You may download Form I-864 and Form I-864A(if needed) and complete it on your computer. You need to go through the form instructions and fill out the required forms. You may then print the forms and attach the forms to the bar code sheet and mail the package to the national visa center. Form I-864 must be signed by you and Form I-864A by the co-sponsor.
However, you will have to check the current poverty guidelines to make sure that you meet the income requirements. As a Green Card holder or a U.S. citizen, your income must be more than 125% of the U.S. poverty level. Your responsibility as a sponsor will begin as soon as the beneficiary enters the United States with an immigrant visa and becomes a permanent resident or after the beneficiary adjusts his status to lawful permanent resident status. Your responsibility will end, if the beneficiary becomes a U.S. citizen, if the beneficiary loses or gives up his lawful permanent resident status or if the beneficiary dies.