What are the Requirements to Sponsor an Immigrant?

Posted by Frank Gogol

When it comes to United States immigration laws, they are quite stringent and demanding. Under the laws, every immigrant should have a financial sponsor to be eligible to immigrate to the US. If you’re looking to bring a foreign national into America and want to learn more about sponsorship, this article will answer all of your questions.

This article touches on how a person can sponsor an immigrant based on a family-based green card program. For corporate sponsors, there’s a whole different procedure.

What is a Financial Sponsor?

A financial sponsor is either a person, a group of people, or a business entity that willingly provides financial backup to an immigrant. In other words, they sponsor the immigrant’s journey into the United States. When you’re a financial sponsor, you take up the responsibility. Responsibility of being in charge of the immigrant for the entire duration of his stay in the US.

Taking up legal responsibilities means making your income and assets available to sponsor an immigrant. Immigrants have been receiving some means-tested public benefits, even though these aren’t meant for them. These include Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the State Child Health Insurance Program.

But the latest Memorandum on Enforcing the Legal Responsibilities of Sponsors of Aliens will disallow certain agencies from providing such benefits. This means the sponsor should be financially secure to be able to bring in someone using a family-based green card.

Affidavit of Support

This financial health is held accountable by you having to file an affidavit of support. If you’ve done some research on this topic, then you’ll be knowing that you need to file at least two forms, namely:

  1. Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative 
  2. Form I-864, Affidavit of Support

Form I-130 is straightforward and deals with basic personal and relationship-based information. But the Form I-864 is where you need to focus on if your main concern is financial sponsorship.

This form can be downloaded from the USCIS website here. This form will ask you to provide various information ranging from your salary and income sources to properties owned in the US and overseas. Consider the Form I-864 as a contract with the US government agreeing to secure the immigrant financially. If the immigrant uses any form of public benefits in the future, the US government can reimburse that amount from your income or assets.

There are various types of I-864 forms like Form I-864, Form I-864 EZ, and Form I-864A. You’ll be using different forms for different scenarios. By filling any of these forms, you can become a financial sponsor.

Who Qualifies to Sponsor an Immigrant?

People who are willing to bring a non-citizen into America by sponsoring them should meet the eligibility criteria as laid out by the USCIS. In this section, we explore those in brief.

Eligibility Criteria to Become a Sponsor

To become eligible to sponsor a non-citizen into the United States, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be a United States citizen or a permanent resident. Immigrants with any other visa status cannot sponsor a person in the US.
  • You must be at least 18 years old at the time of filing the Form I-130.
  • You should have your domicile in the US or any of its territories.
  • You must have met the required financial requirements (more on this in the subsequent section)
  • You must have filed Form I-864, Affidavit of Support.

Income Requirement to Become Financial Sponsors

By law, you must prove that you have an income level of at least 125% above the Federal poverty level. The poverty level is as per the ASPE’s determined metrics. At the time of writing, the poverty level was set at $12,760 per annum for a single person. For a two-person household, it was $17,240. These are the same for 48 US States and the District of Columbia. For Alaska and Hawaii, the numbers are different. So as per the income level requirement, your income should be at least $15,950 annually which would make you eligible for sponsoring.

For military personnel, it is set at 100% of the poverty level, which is equal to the poverty level earnings.

Failure To Meet The Income Requirement

If you fail to meet the income requirement, the road to bring someone into the United States doesn’t end there. To meet the requirement, you can open up your financial assets. This includes, but is not limited to, checking accounts, saving accounts, bonds, stocks, real estate properties, business stakes, etc.

You will be mentioning these in your Form I-864 and the asset value will then be decided by the USCIS. If even after offering your assets doesn’t meet the income requirement, there’s another possible option: Joint Sponsorship.

Joint Sponsorship

Joint sponsorship is a way wherein you can jointly sponsor an immigrant with another person. The person who is willing to take legal responsibility for the immigrant along with you is called a joint sponsor. In most cases, joint sponsorship is undertaken to meet the income requirement. But the main requirement of a joint sponsor states that he should meet the 125% income requirement all by himself.

In most cases, the need for a joint sponsor to pay for the immigrant never arises. They, more or less, act as a financial backup or an insurance policy for the US government. 

The same eligibility criteria applicable to you are applied to your co-sponsor as well. But they don’t need to have a direct relationship with the immigrant.

Immigrant Sponsorship FAQ

We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions about the immigrant sponsorship. Here are the top five questions:

When Should I File The Affidavit Of Support?

You, as a sponsor, should complete the form by the time the visa interview has been scheduled by the overseas consular officer. The immigrant will be attending this interview and will need to provide the I-864 form. The interview process will be initiated once you file I-130.

How Long Am I Responsible For The Immigrant?

You are responsible to take the financial responsibility until the immigrant either becomes a US citizen, credited with 40 quarters or 10 years of work, permanently moves out of the United States or dies – whichever event occurs first.

What If I Fail To Provide Financial Support?

In certain cases, if you fail to provide the required financial support, then your co-sponsor is obliged to take up the responsibility as agreed during the filing. If you filed without a co-sponsor, then the immigrant is eligible to apply for and receive certain means-tested public benefits. But these will be billed and you’d eventually have to pay for them.

Do I Have To Notify USCIS If I Change The Address?

Yes. You are legally required to keep the USCIS officials up to date with your current location till your financial obligations are over. Whether you move domestically or internationally, you must file the Form I-865, Sponsor’s Notice of Change of Address, within a month (30 days) of shifting.

Can I Supplement The Lack Of Affidavit Of Support Requirements With A Credible Employment Offer?

No. The USCIS does not recognize such offers made.

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Conclusion

Sponsoring an immigrant isn’t complex, but you definitely need to take care of due diligence. In case of confusion, it is advised to get in touch with an immigration attorney in your state.

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