What is an Affidavit of Support?
When petitioning a family member for lawful permanent residence in the US, you must complete an Affidavit of Support, also known as Form I-864. This document is a legally binding and enforceable contract between these parties:
- The sponsor
- The sponsored family member
- The federal government and your state and local governments
- Any government agency providing income-based public benefits to the sponsored newcomer
Once you sign it, you agree to assume responsibility for your family member until they:
- Become a US citizen OR
- Earn 40 work quarters applied toward Social Security (a process that takes approximately 10 years) OR
- Pass away OR
- Leave the US permanently
If your relative has been living and working in the US, the work credits they have earned to date may be applied toward the 40 quarters. If you are petitioning for a spouse, work that your spouse performs during the marriage may also count.
Who Can Sponsor an Affidavit of Support?
US immigration law has specific requirements regarding who is eligible to sign an Affidavit of Support. All sponsors must be:
- A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
- At least 18 years of age
- Living in the US
You will have to demonstrate that your income is at least 125% of the federal poverty guidelines for the number of people in your household. If any adult relatives live with you, such as parents, siblings, or grown children, their income can be counted toward the threshold; but all joint sponsors must sign a separate document, Form I-864A, agreeing to share responsibility. (Note: if your sponsored relative lives with you, their income may meet the threshold, but they cannot sponsor themselves.)
If you and your relatives are living overseas when you petition for them, the consulate will ask you to prove one of the following:
- That the absence is only temporary and you have maintained ties to the US, OR
- You intend to resume living in the US by the date that your relative is admitted
Proof of ties to the US could include keeping US bank accounts, paying state or local taxes, or voting in an election.
What Are the Obligations of An Affidavit of Support?
Once you sign the Form I-864, you and any joint sponsors are financially responsible for the sponsored relative. Should you fail to provide adequate support, they or the government could take you to court to enforce the obligation. Your relative can sue you for enough money to bring their income up to 125% above the government poverty guidelines and the government can pursue you for repayment of any income-based public benefits issued to the person.
It is important to note that your responsibility will survive personal bankruptcy (an Affidavit of Support creates a domestic support obligation that cannot be discharged) or divorce. Some sponsors have even tried to evade their financial obligation by moving and not leaving a forwarding address. If your address changes, you must inform USCIS and state authorities within 30 days or risk civil penalties.
Contact a Seattle Immigration Attorney
Having a spouse or other close family member join you in the US is an exciting and rewarding opportunity. At ZafiroLaw, we will support your goal by confirming your ability to sponsor, explaining and contesting your obligations, and assisting with the completion and filing of the Affidavit of Support. To schedule a consultation with Attorney Katrina Zafiro, call 206-547-9906.