Risks of Sponsoring an Immigrant
In this immigration law article we will explain the obligations and legal risks of sponsoring an immigrant and the implications of Form I-864 Affidavit of Support.
Sponsoring an immigrant can be incredibly rewarding. If you know someone who wants to live in the U.S. permanently – whether this person is your fiancé or spouse, a family member or friend, or a potential employee – you can be part of making their dream a reality by sponsoring them. But sponsoring an immigrant involves taking on financial and legal responsibilities, and the process isn’t without risk.
Obligations and Potential Drawbacks of Sponsoring an Immigrant
When you sign Form I-864, which is published and regulated by the USCIS, you’re entering into a legally binding contract under which you must fulfill your responsibilities to the immigrant.
In the U.S., an immigration sponsor can be a person, group, or business. In order to sponsor someone, you must be a U.S. citizen over the age of 18, currently live in the U.S. or its territories, and meet certain income requirements to prove you can financially support the immigrant upon their arrival.
You as the sponsor are legally responsible for providing ongoing financial support. This means you must guarantee your income is at or above 125% of the poverty line. In essence, Form I-864 is a promise to the U.S. federal government that you will provide adequate support to the immigrant in order to prevent them from becoming a public charge. If you fail to fulfill your financial responsibilities, the sponsored immigrant can sue you for financial support.
Duration of Immigration Sponsorships
Immigration sponsorship is a long-term commitment and you will be expected to fulfill your financial and legal responsibilities until the sponsored immigrant:
- Is officially awarded U.S. citizenship
- Is credited with 40 quarters of work (this usually takes around ten years)
- Leaves the U.S. permanently
Is it possible to get out of a sponsorship?
Immigration sponsorships are concrete and cannot be withdrawn arbitrarily. You may be able to request cancellation with the USCIS before the petition has been approved; however, once the petition has been approved and a visa has been issued to the sponsored individual, you will have to provide evidence that the agreement was fraudulent in order to have it revoked.
The endurance of a sponsorship agreement comes with its own set of risks. For example, if you have chosen to sponsor a spouse, even a legal divorce will not revoke or alter your I-864 obligations.
Many sponsors wonder if filing for bankruptcy will dissolve the agreement. However, unlike other contracts, Form I-864 is considered a “domestic support obligation” and is thus an exception to traditional bankruptcy rules and regulations. Domestic support obligations may be financial support owed to the immigrant or to the government in the form of benefit reimbursement.
When You Should Hire an Immigration Lawyer
Speaking to a qualified immigration lawyer prior to signing Form I-864 gives you the best possible chance of your sponsorship being successful. It’s also a great way to get all your questions answered and address any concerns you have about the process or the commitments you’re making by ensuring you know exactly what you’re agreeing to and the risks and liabilities you are taking on.