When an individual wants to immigrate to the United States through a family connection, he or she cannot simply pick up and do so. Potential immigrants require a sponsor to support them financially, and in other ways, while they get on their feet (if they are permitted to immigrate in the first place). The job of sponsor can be daunting, and very often neither the potential immigrant nor the U.S. citizen understands it fully. Therefore, it is critical that the job be understood by both.
The Affidavit of Support
The process is started by the U.S. citizen sponsor, who files an I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative). The most important part of the petition is the Affidavit of Support (AOS), which is a “legally binding contract” between the signatory and the U.S. government.
By signing the AOS, the sponsor agrees to financially support the incoming immigrant at (at least) 125 percent of the federal poverty metric. Additionally, the sponsor’s assets are ‘deemed available’ for use in service of supporting that potential immigrant.
Be advised, however, that even if you lack the financial assets to qualify to be a sponsor, you can still complete the paperwork, and either have another family member sign on to your AOS as a co-sponsor or you can seek a separate person to complete another separate AOS. If both affidavits together meet the financial minimum, then the petition will be allowed to continue on in the process.
When Does Financial Responsibility End?
Contrary to popular belief, if your petition is granted and your relative immigrates to the United States, you will remain responsible for that person’s financial well-being until one of four factors occur: he or she either becomes a U.S. citizen, leaves the country permanently, passes away, or (the most common outcome) is credited with 40 quarters of work, which usually takes at least 10 years. Many sponsors labor under the mistaken belief that as soon as the person arrives, his or her obligation ends—this is not the case.
One important clarification that must be made is that if your relative, after arriving, winds up requiring public assistance or benefits such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps, or Medicaid, then the government may enforce the sponsorship contract and bring an action against you to recover the amount of money paid to the immigrant. Any ‘means-tested’ public benefit granted to the immigrant is seen as an amount that should be the province of a sponsor. This does not include assistance programs that have no means test, such as emergency relief or any assistance under the Higher Education Act.
Seek Experienced Legal Assistance
It is entirely understandable to want to have one’s family nearby, especially as our loved ones age. Consulting a dedicated Chicago immigration attorney can help ensure that your loved ones are allowed to go through the process unhindered. The knowledgeable professionals at Mevorah Law Offices LLC are happy to do our best to assist you. Contact our offices today to set up a free consultation.
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