For an immigrant to come to the U.S. on a fiancé(e) or family-based visa, they need an affidavit of support from a sponsor who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Typically, the sponsor role is fulfilled by the person who files the petition for immigration on behalf of their relative or fiancé(e). If you intend to serve as a sponsor, it is crucial that you understand your responsibilities and obligations and what may happen if you do not fulfill them.
When you sign an affidavit of support for another person’s immigration, the primary commitment you make is to take financial responsibility for supporting that person once they become a lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the U.S. After achieving LPR status, immigrants are legally permitted to work in the U.S., so they are often able to support themselves at least partially. However, if they cannot do so, you are responsible for providing for their financial needs.
It may come as a surprise that you will still be ultimately responsible for the person you sponsor even if they qualify for means-tested public benefits like Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Though the government may provide these benefits upfront, you will be expected to repay them in full. You will also remain responsible for a spouse whom you sponsor even if your marriage ends in divorce.
However, your sponsorship obligation will not necessarily last forever. For example, you will no longer be considered financially responsible after the person you sponsor becomes a U.S. citizen or after they work in the U.S. for 40 quarters (approximately 10 years). The same is true if the person you sponsor dies or leaves the U.S. permanently.
In order to become a sponsor, a person must typically demonstrate that their household income is at or above a certain threshold. If their income is below that threshold, they may ask a joint sponsor to assist them. For example, a person may ask their parent, sibling, or friend to be a joint sponsor for a spousal or fiancé(e) visa.
If you have been asked to be a joint sponsor, you need to understand what you would be committing to. Though you may feel like you are simply helping a friend or family member, being a joint sponsor means that you have the same financial and legal obligations as any sponsor would. This could place a substantial burden on you if something unexpected happens.
Sponsoring someone’s immigration can change your life and theirs for the better, but it is also a major responsibility that you should not take lightly. The experienced Illinois immigration lawyers at Mevorah & Giglio Law Offices can help you understand your obligations when petitioning for a family member’s immigration, and we can also help you resolve a situation in which you are held financially liable. Call us today for a free consultation at 630-932-9100.
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