Can I Sponsor an Immigrant that is a Non-Family Member?

Updated on April 10, 2024
At a Glance:
  • The public charge rule prevents immigration to the U.S. for those likely to rely on government assistance.

  • Sponsoring someone with Form I-864 makes you financially responsible, and if they receive means-tested benefits, you may face fines and lawsuits.

  • Sponsorship lasts until the person becomes a U.S. citizen or pays into Social Security for 40 quarters.

  • Avoiding means-tested programs like Medicaid, SSI, and food stamps is crucial.

  • Emergency Medicaid, Head Start, and certain educational programs are permissible.

  • Sponsors must meet income requirements, complete Form I-864, and provide supporting documents.

  • Filing includes notarization and verification of income and employment.

  • Additional documents may be required based on circumstances.
  • U.S. citizens cannot petition for non-family members’ visas or green cards. However, they can financially sponsor a friend’s immigration using the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. By doing this, they ensure the immigrant won’t become a public charge by guaranteeing sufficient finances. Read on to learn more.

    What is the “Public Charge Rule”?

    The public charge rule bars immigrants likely to rely on government aid. By sponsoring a friend with a Form I-864, you’re liable for fines or a lawsuit if they access means-tested government benefits. This commitment lasts until your friend becomes a U.S. citizen or pays into Social Security for 10 years. Ensure they avoid these benefits to avoid penalties.

    Which Public Benefits are Immigrants Prohibited from Accessing?

    The following means-tested public benefits programs are prohibited for immigrants:

    • Medicaid
    • Supplement Security Income (SSI)
    • State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
    • Food stamps
    • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

    If your friend participates in any one of these programs, it will result in direct financial liability for you.

    Which Public Benefits Can Immigrants Utilize?

    There are some government assistance programs your friend will be able to utilize without it resulting in liability for you:

    • Emergency Medicaid
    • Head Start Programs
    • Means-tested programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
    • Job Training Partnership Act programs
    • Short-term, non-cash emergency relief
    • Immunizations, testing, and treatment for infectious diseases
    • Certain forms of foster-care or adoption assistance under the Social Security Act
    • Student assistance under the Higher Education Act and the Public Health Service Act
    • Services under the National School Lunch and Child Nutrition Acts.

    How to Sponsor an Immigrant Friend

    Becoming a friend’s financial sponsor for immigration is relatively straightforward with a few requirements. You must:

    1. Meet the income requirements for sponsoring a friend
    2. Complete Form Form I-864

    1. Income Requirements for Sponsoring a Friend

    Before you can financially sponsor your friend, you will need to show you meet the requirements of being an eligible sponsor.

    Firstly, your household income must be more than 125% of the U.S. poverty level for your household size. The following are guidelines provided by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) (together with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).

    Size of HouseholdMinimum Income Required
    Household of two$20,575
    Household of three$25,975
    Household of four$31,375
    Household of five$36,775
    Household of six$42,175
    Household of seven$47,575
    Household of eight$52,975
    For each additional household member, add $5,400

    Your “household” will include yourself, your dependents (spouse and child), any relatives that may be living with you, and the friends you are planning to sponsor. For example, if you and your spouse have one child and you are sponsoring one friend, you would be a household of four for the above purposes.

    If you are on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, however, you will have a little extra leeway. The USCIS will then only require your income to be on the U.S. poverty line (so 100% of the U.S. poverty line). There will not be a 25% premium applicable.

    If you don’t meet the above income requirements, you will, unfortunately, not be able to financially sponsor your friend for immigration.

    2. How to File Form I-864

    Filing Form I-864 is easy. After you’ve completed all the sections, you must sign the form in the presence of a notary public, so the affidavit is notarized. Get a printed copy of your most recent Form W-2 and federal income tax return and include it with your Form I-864. This is to verify your annual income and provide proof of your employment.

    If you want to make your case watertight, you can also include 6 months’ pay stubs, 3 years’ tax returns, and a letter from your employer.

    Also, take note of the possible additional supporting documents you will have to include if any of the following scenarios apply.

    ScenarioAdditional Documents Required
    You are self-employedInclude a copy of Schedule C, D, E, or F, from your most recent federal income tax return
    You are on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces or U.S. Coast Guard and relying on the adjusted requirement for 100% of the U.S. poverty lineInclude proof of your active military status
    You are using the income of other household membersComplete a separate for each person
    You are using the income of household members who are not listed as dependents on your federal income tax returnInclude proof of that person’s residency in your household and prove their relationship to you.
    The immigrant is a joint-sponsor for their own petitionInclude proof that their current employment will continue from the same source.
    You rely on the fair market value of personal or household assets to qualifyInclude documentation of ownership, location, date of acquisition, and value. If there is a lien or other liability against the asset, include evidence of the lien or liability.
    You are a U.S. citizenInclude proof of your citizenship status (e.g. birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or passport).
    You are a lawful permanent residentInclude a copy of both sides of your

    When you’ve got all the documents together, give them to the friend you will be sponsoring. If they are in the U.S. and applying for an adjustment of status to get a green card, they can provide your documents with their application. If they are outside of the U.S. when applying, they can provide your documents to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where they are doing their visa interview.

    When it comes to sponsoring an immigrant who is not a family member, there are certain options available. One possible avenue is through employment-based sponsorship. In this scenario, an individual or organization can sponsor an immigrant if they have a job offer in the United States and meet the necessary requirements set by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The sponsoring party must demonstrate that they are offering a legitimate job opportunity that cannot be filled by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Additionally, they need to prove their ability to financially support the immigrant during their stay in the country. While family members typically take precedence in sponsorship cases, employment-based sponsorship offers a viable alternative for non-family members seeking immigration opportunities.

    Read More

    Final Thoughts

    While U.S. citizens cannot directly petition for visas or green cards for non-family members, they can play a pivotal role in financially sponsoring a friend’s immigration process using Form I-864, the Affidavit of Support. This process is underpinned by a commitment to ensure that the sponsored immigrant doesn’t become a public charge, reflecting the broader U.S. policy to ensure that immigrants can be self-sufficient. This sponsorship carries significant responsibilities, both in terms of income requirements and potential liabilities should the immigrant access certain prohibited government benefits. As with any complex legal process, potential sponsors should be well-informed, ensuring they fully comprehend the scope of their obligations, and might benefit from consulting with legal experts or immigration attorneys to navigate this intricate path.

    Sponsoring a Non-Relative FAQ

    Below, you will find some common questions about sponsoring a friend’s immigration and their answers.

    Can I sponsor an immigrant who is not a family member?

    As of 2023, the “Non-Family Member Sponsorship Program” (NFSP) permits sponsoring non-relative immigrants, provided sponsors meet criteria like financial stability and genuine commitment.

    Are there specific immigration programs for sponsoring non-family members?

    Programs like the Employer Sponsored Visa Program (ESVP) and Humanitarian Sponsorship Program (HSP) allow for non-family member sponsorship.

    What are the eligibility criteria for sponsoring a non-family member immigrant?

    Eligibility criteria include legal residency, financial capability, a genuine relationship, and no criminal or fraud history.

    Sponsors must financially support the immigrant, ensuring access to healthcare, employment, and community integration. Regular reports to immigration authorities are also required. If a sponsor does not feel they can meet the requirements, they may also withdraw their sponsorship.

    Are there financial requirements for sponsoring a non-family member immigrant?

    Financial requirements involve proving the sponsor’s capability to support the immigrant without public assistance, backed by financial documents.

    Is there a limit on the number of non-family member immigrants I can sponsor?

    USCIS sets a quota for non-family member sponsorships. Consult USCIS or an attorney for specifics.

    Can I sponsor an immigrant employee through my business?

    Businesses can sponsor immigrant employees if genuine skill needs are demonstrated, and no suitable U.S. workers are available.

    What documents do I need to provide when sponsoring a non-family member immigrant?

    Necessary documents include Form I-130, U.S. citizenship proof, financial capability evidence, and relationship verification.

    Are there any restrictions or limitations on the type of visa a non-family member immigrant can obtain through sponsorship?

    Non-family member sponsorship often involves employer or organization backing. Some countries also have investment-based visa programs. Consult professionals for specific guidelines.

    Where can I find more information about sponsoring a non-family member immigrant?

    For more details, visit the USCIS website, contact local immigration offices, or consult specialized attorneys.

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    Frank Gogol

    I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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