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Immigrant Sponsorship and the Legal Implications

What does it mean to sponsor an immigrant? In the U.S., sponsorship of people or events is fairly commonplace, but the sponsorship of an immigrant is much more involved than your run-of-the-mill PTA or a fútbol club, as you can imagine, but how in-depth the commitment of immigrant sponsorship might surprise you.

The premise of the immigration sponsorship is pretty straightforward. A U.S. citizen or permanent resident agrees to sponsor an immigrant entering the United States and does so by completing an Affidavit of Support, or an I-864 form, for the immigrating person. This is also the process for co-sponsoring an immigrant, but we’ll get to that later. First, let’s take a look at what is required to sponsor an immigrant, and then we’ll take a deeper dive into what sponsorship means for you. 

 Who Can Sponsor an Immigrant?

We’ve already established that someone sponsoring an immigrant coming to the U.S. must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. It goes without saying that the sponsor must be a legal adult (18+ years of age) currently living in the U.S. Additionally, there are financial responsibilities tied to the sponsorship of an immigrant and, as such, sponsors are required to earn a certain amount of money to be eligible to be a sponsor.

Generally speaking, someone sponsoring an immigrant will have to be financially well off, but there are options to accommodate sponsors who do not meet the financial income minimums, and that is in the form of co-sponsorship. The financial requirements are in place due to the legal responsibility placed on sponsors and co-sponsors to ensure that the immigrants do not become a public charge. 

With that understanding, a sponsor or co-sponsor is financially obligated to provide for the immigrating person they are sponsoring. We can take a closer look at the legal implications involved with signing the Affidavit of Support.

Affidavit of Support and What it Means for Sponsors

Signing an Affidavit of Support is more than just government red tape. It is a serious, legally binding venture that should be taken with careful consideration and complete trust in the immigrant you plan to sponsor. Remember that financial responsibility we just discussed? It’s not just a formality. You are agreeing to be financially responsible for an immigrating person until they:

  1. Become a legal U.S. citizen or resident.
  2. Die.
  3. Have a 10-year record of legal work demonstrated through their work record and a tracked history of payment with contributions to our tax system in the U.S.

This legally enforceable document, the Affidavit of Support, means that failure to adequately provide for the immigrant you sponsor can lead to the immigrant or the U.S. government bringing legal action in court against you. Though you may be a law-abiding legal U.S. resident, the law places the burden and obligation on the sponsor much more than it does the immigrant.

‘Til Death Do You Part

Many of the Affidavits of Support that we see are through marriage. A couple in love, floating on promises of hope and happiness in the future, make what seems like an obvious and easy decision to bring their partner to the U.S. Building a life together and relying on one another for prosperity and wellness in the U.S. is common practice for most marriages, and it’s definitely true in cases of immigration sponsorship in couples. While all of that sounds great, reality and statistics tell us that marriages don’t always end up with fairytale endings.

While your marriage can be annulled and absolved with some legal proceedings with the stroke of a pen, your legal commitment to a sponsored immigrant knows no end. So, marriages may not be until death do you part, but Affidavits of Support definitely are forever.

Even in financial ruin or bankruptcy, a sponsor can still be bound by sponsorship commitments, so treat lightly and cautiously.

Sponsoring an immigrant, especially someone you love, can be truly wonderful and life-changing for the best, but it is a commitment and a legally binding one that should only be entered into after careful consideration and legal guidance from a trusted and seasoned immigration attorney. 

If you are considering becoming a sponsor for an immigrant and would like to review your particular circumstances and receive guidance on the requisite paperwork and qualifications, we are happy to help. Please reach out to us. Please continue to follow our social media channels for breakdowns and alerts on the immigration processes that affect you and your loved ones.

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