What is an Affidavit of Support (I-864)?
As per the INA-Section 213A, (I-864) or Affidavit of Support is simply a contract that a person signs when they agree to support an intending immigrant (named on Form I-864) financially. The person who signs Form I-864 agreeing to offer financial support becomes a the sponsor after an intending immigrant gains lawful permanent residency.
The Roles/Responsibilities of a Sponsor
Sponsors usually act as petitioners who file immigrant petitions for intending immigrants. Affidavits of support are legally enforceable contracts. Sponsors become financially liable should the immigrant be unable to meet their financial obligation when they are in the US.
A sponsor's responsibility exists until the person they are sponsoring becomes an American citizen. If a family member of an immigrant becomes an American citizen, sponsorship can also end. The same applies after a 10-year period (usually when a person is credited with forty quarters of work).
The responsibilities of a sponsor are enshrined in the law. Sponsors take legal responsibility for supporting sponsored immigrants financially if need be until they gain American citizenship of work for 10 years. The obligation ends if you/the sponsored immigrant/s dies, losses legal permanent residency, or leaves America.
What If I Sponsor an Immigrant and Refuse to Pay?
If you sponsor an immigrant and they get public benefits, you will be responsible for paying back the agency that provided such benefits. If you don't, the immigrant or agency that has issued benefits has the right to sue you and recover monies owed.
It is possible to jointly sponsor an immigrant. When this happens, more than one sponsor can combine their resources to meet minimum income requirements. In such a case, every sponsor has financial responsibility to sponsor the immigrant. Joint sponsors have independent liability for the entire reimbursement. They can be sued or asked to refund monies owned even if they aren't asked for money.
How Do I submit Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support)?
For a person to have their status adjusted or get an immigrant visa, Form I-864 must be submitted by;
Immediate relatives of American citizens (spouses, parents, unmarried children under 21 years and orphans) as well as relatives qualifying for immigration into the US under any family-based preference. First preference covers unmarried sons and daughters of American citizens aged 21 and above. Second preference includes spouses of permanent legal residents and unmarried sons & daughters of permanent US residents and their children (unmarried), regardless of age.
Third preference includes married sons & daughters of American citizens as well as their spouses and unmarried minor children. Fourth preference includes sisters and brothers of adult American citizens, their spouses as well as unmarried minor children. Form I-864 can also be submitted by employment-based preference immigrants when an American citizen/permanent resident relative filed their visa petition, or the relative has 5% or more ownership interest in the entity filing the petition.
The above individuals aren't required to submit Form I-864 if they have proof that they have worked forty qualifying quarters or they can be credited forty qualifying quarters. What's more, children of American citizens admitted with permanent residency on/before 27th February 2001 are also automatically exempted. Such individuals acquire citizenship automatically as per the INA-Section 320.
Who Doesn't Need to Submit Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support)?
There are scenarios where an affidavit of support isn't necessary. For instance, individuals who have already earned forty qualifying quarters or who can be credited with forty qualifying quarters working in the US don't need an affidavit.
Also, persons with approved Form I-360 (special immigrant approval) can act as self-petitioning individuals. The same applies to individuals with approved Form I-360s because of being battered. Lastly, orphans adopted by American citizens are also exempted from the sponsorship rules. If a formal or full adoption takes place before permanent residency is given or before adoptive parents see their child before/during an adoption process.
What Happens When an Affidavit of Support is Falsified?
Individuals who knowingly falsify, hide material facts, or submit false documents or information when filing Form I-864 risk having their form rejected and immigration benefits denied. What's more, there are stringent penalties in law, such as criminal prosecution.
The American government can choose to verify information provided on the Form I-864 or supporting the affidavit. Income, employment, assets, and other information can be verified with an employer, the IRS, Social Security Administration, among other government agencies.
Actions as simple as failing to offer a notice that you have changed your address as required by the law can make you liable for civil penalties. Penalty amounts vary depending on a sponsor's knowledge that the immigrant they sponsored received public benefits.
What Is the Income Requirements of Sponsors?
To sponsor an intending immigrant, a person must meet a specified income threshold. The income requirements apply to all types of sponsors, whether individual, joint, or substitute. Generally, a sponsor must have a household income that is above 125 percent of America's poverty levels set for the respective household size.
The household size includes the sponsor, his/her dependents, spouse, and other relatives living with them, plus the intended immigrant being sponsored. However, there are exemptions to the 125 percent rules. For instance, sponsors who happen to be US armed forces personnel on active duty can sponsor provided they have a household income that is 100% or more of the American poverty level applicable to that household size.
Sponsors must file Form I-864 to replace a deceased visa petitioner if the visa petitioner passes on after his/her visa petition is approved by the USCIS decides to allow the petition to continue. Substitute sponsors must have a relationship with an intending immigrant. They can be a parent, spouse, mother-in-law/father-in-law, child (if 18 or more years), sibling, daughter, son, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, grandchild, grandparent, or legal guardian of a beneficiary.
Substitute sponsors also need to be adults (aged 18 or above), be American citizens or permanent residents, be domiciled (living) in America, and meet every financial requirement by sponsors as per INA Section: 213(A). A substitute sponsor takes all obligations given to I-864 sponsors.