What Are The Risks Of Sponsoring An Immigrant? | IAS (2024)

Before Signing the Affidavit of Support

Affidavit of Support, also called Form I-864, is a legally enforceable contract you will be required to fill when sponsoring an immigrant who is not empowered to fulfil their financial obligations. You can fill out this form as a major sponsor or sign it as a joint sponsor.

Family-based immigrants and some employment-based immigrants must submit this form which has to be signed by a US citizen or green card holder in their applications to show that they have a reliable source of financial support and wouldn’t have to rely on the government.

In a situation where the major sponsor’s income is not enough to be financially responsible for an immigrant and his/her family members, the need for a joint sponsor sets in. A joint sponsor might be a friend or family member of the green card holder.

Whether you are signing Form I-864 as a major or joint sponsor, you should know your legal obligation and financial obligation to understand if you are willing and able to fulfil your responsibility.

Study the financial responsibilities, legal responsibilities, and legal fees attached to this form carefully. There is a simpler version of the Affidavit of Support form known as “Form I-864EZ.” You can support an immigrant based on your income’s capability.

If you are sponsoring just one immigrant and you have a single means of income (retirement wages or earnings from business), once your minimum income requirement meets the criteria of the federal poverty guidelines in either form (Form I-864 or Form I-864EZ), you’ll be able to provide support for the immigrant.

What Are The Risks Of Sponsoring An Immigrant? | IAS (1)

What are the Requirements to be a Financial Sponsor?

Below are some requirements that qualify any US citizen or green card holder to be a sponsor. These requirements also hold for joint sponsors.

  • A sponsor must be a US citizen or a permanent resident of the US.
  • A sponsor must live in the US and have ties with the country like keeping a US bank account, filing tax return, etc.
  • They must be at least 18 years old.

Also, note that a sponsor must be financially secure enough to support an immigrant. Where a joint sponsor has to come in, the joint sponsor’s income, household income, and assets must also meet the poverty guidelines by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which is a government agency in the United States.

Who Can Sponsor an Immigrant in the US?

Only US citizens can sponsor an Immigrant. However, they can only sponsor immigrants who are family members. You can petition to bring your household member into the United States with you through afamily-based green card.

Once you take on the immigrant’s financial needs such that they won’t need to rely on public assistance benefits for sustenance, you can be recognized as their financial sponsor by theUnited States Citizenship and Immigration Services(USCIS) administered by the Department of Homeland Security.

Liabilities of Sponsoring an Immigrant

Risks from the Immigrant

Sponsoring an immigrant financially is weightier to a green card holder than to the sponsored immigrant because the bulk of legal and financial responsibilities rest on the permanent resident and will remain so for at least, a decade in most cases. Here are specific risks you are taking when you sponsor or act as a joint sponsor to an immigrant, even when the person is a family member:

Immigrant May Sue You for Financial Support

Your legal responsibility as a green card holder is to ensure that the immigrant has enough money to meet the poverty line. If the sponsored immigrant has to rely on public benefits to reside in the country, you are already failing in your responsibility and the immigrant can sue you for not meeting up.

Note that you are not responsible for the immigrant’s bills, debts and tax return. Should your sponsored immigrant file a financial support suit because you have been delinquent, the state will side with them and you may even have to pay legal fees for the suit.

Sponsorship is not Necessarily Terminated by Divorce

Your immigrant spouse reserves the right to be sponsored by you even if you are divorced. Sponsorship liabilities do not end with divorce, regardless of the reasons for the divorce. In fact, cases where an immigrant is a battered spouse may get the petitioning spouse paying additional support fees.

Since sponsorship responsibilities are likely to continue well into 10 years, spousal support for former spouse is likely to remain in short-term marriages which are marriages that are less than 10 years.

Risk from the Government

As the state puts more responsibility regarding the welfare of an immigrant on the green card holder and joint sponsor (where applicable), it is always ready to hold sponsors legally responsible.

US Government May Sue You for Reimbursem*nt

Part of the support requirements for financial sponsors is to repay the government when immigrants use public benefits. Waiting to be asked for the repayment may be waiting too long as it may be done through a suit. If you are aware an immigrant has accessed public benefits and you try to escape the responsibility to pay the government back, you may be fined between $2,000 to $5,000. To avoid civil suits from the government, voluntarily repay any debt accrued from the benefits the immigrant receives.

USCIS May Fine You

Sponsorship is a long-term responsibility that many sponsors want to escape. But the USCIS has made it impossible to hide as sponsors are required to notify the agency about any change of address within 10 days whenever they move. Failure to do so may result in a civil lawsuit and a fine between$250 and $2,000.

The Opportunity Cost

Choosing to sponsor or act as a joint sponsor may mean that you won’t have the resources to later sponsor another person even if you desire to do so. With such limited opportunity to obtain US permanent residence for others, you are risking your slot and resources on the immigrant you have chosen compared to those you may later lack the means to help. This is a huge commitment especially if taken for an immigrant that is not an immediate family member.

The Additional Cost in a Worst Case Scenario

Life happens. Plans change. Businesses go bankrupt and people lose their jobs. Yet, none of these financial setbacks will relieve you of your sponsorship obligations. The additional financial burden may complicate an already tough season.

We can help you with all documentation you need in order to sponsor an immigrant.

Financial Support for Immigrants

After filling out the Affidavit of Support form, you’ll be able to provide support by remitting funds to sponsored immigrants. The US Department of Home Security made some financial propositions about this in the financial requirements. These propositions describe how and what amount of funds to direct to immigrants’ purses.

The Form I-864 affidavit of support is an agreement form with some requirements signed by a sponsor to take up the financial responsibility of an immigrant. Thus, every sponsor must meet all requirements in this form and carry out all the financial obligations stated in it.

Acting as Their Financial Sponsor

An immigrant can be supported from your income if you have signed to be their financial sponsor. If the immigrant is your spouse, the same applies provided your household income will suffice. if it wouldn’t, other adult members of your household can support as joint sponsors.

Acting as a Reputable Individual Before the USCIS

US law permits citizens who fit into the “Reputable individuals” bill to guide an immigrant through the application, petition and request process. Reputable individuals can be a relative, neighbor, business associate or personal friend. To act as one, you first need to submit a statement that states the following to the relevant USCIS/DHS official:

  • The immigrant personally requested for your help
  • You were not paid any fee to help them
  • You have a pre-existing relationship with them
  • You are not regularly involved in immigration practice
  • You do not present yourself to the public as qualified to engage in immigration practice or preparation.

Note that your involvement does not contribute to the financial sponsorship requirement the immigrant needs from a green card holder.

Moreover, the help provided by reputable individuals is limited to reading a form, translating the form and writing down information provided. As such, their opinions do not constitute legal advice in immigration cases.

To provide the needed financial support as a green card holder or US citizen, it is advisable to work with a competent immigration attorney from a reputable law firm.

How Long Are You Responsible for an Immigrant?

Once an immigrant becomes a US citizen (green card holder) or has earned 40 work quarters traceable to social security, you no longer bear any sponsor’s obligations towards them. The same also applies if the immigrant relocates outside the US permanently or dies.

However, where none of these conditions have been met, you are legally responsible for financially supporting the immigrant. If they use any means-tested public benefits, you have the responsibility to refund the government without waiting to be asked for a refund.

What Are The Risks Of Sponsoring An Immigrant? | IAS (2)

How Much Income Do You Need to Sponsor an Immigrant in 2022?

Your income must reach at least the required 125% federal poverty line for your household size if you are a civil spouse or sponsor. Before you can sponsor an immigrant to the US, you must be a lawful permanent resident or US citizen who currently resides in the US. If you do not currently reside in the US, you must be able to prove that your residence abroad is temporary and you still intend to come back to your home country.

After meeting the legal responsibility to provide financial support to an immigrant, you need to meet theHHS Poverty Guidelineswhich became effective in March 2022. For sponsors who are on active duty in the US Army, the minimum income requirement is 100% of the poverty line for their household size. However, this discount is only valid for the spouse and child of a petitioning spouse.

For a household size of 2 people, the minimum earnings requirement for a civilian household is $22,887 while it is $18,310 for a military household of the same size in the US mainland. The requirement varies for Alaska which has $28,612 for a 2-people civilian household and $22,890 for a military household of 2 people. In Hawaii, $26,325 is the minimum requirement for a civilian household size of 2 people while it is $21,060 for a military household of the same size.

Green card holders and US citizens who work for multinationals or remotely can also use their foreign income to file the Affidavit of Support. Those currently living and earning outside the US may be able to use their income if they can prove that they will retain their jobs after coming back to the US or that they will get a new job that will support their sponsor’s obligations.

However, if your income fails to meet the minimum requirement, you can add your assets. If your assets along wouldn’t suffice, you may get a household member to add their income as a joint sponsor. Assets refer to items that can be converted to cash within a year without causing financial stress and distress for your own household regardless of its size. Examples of assets that can be valued with income are; bank accounts, real estate properties, stocks, and bonds.

Do you need help with the process of sponsoring an immigrant? Our lawyers can assist you.

How Can IAS Help?

Taking on the financial obligations of an immigrant is a huge investment that will last for about a decade. It requires careful consideration, proper planning and accurate projections about the future.

Since there is no running from it once you commit to it, you need to safeguard your interest every step of the way by engaging the services of a professional immigration lawyer.

Call us on+1 (844) 290-6312for situation-specific legal counsel on your immigration deliberations orcontact us online.

We offer immigration advice sessions as face-to-face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone.

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What Are The Risks Of Sponsoring An Immigrant? | IAS (2024)


What is the risk of being a sponsor for an immigrant? ›

You bear more responsibility on the immigrant as a sponsor. If the unexpected happens, you may be faced with fines and lawsuits. Before you sign an Affidavit of Support, speak with an immigration attorney for free evaluation of your specific situation and how best to prepare for any undesirable outcome.

What are my liabilities when sponsoring an immigrant? ›

For what is a sponsor liable? In essence, sponsoring an immigrant means taking on the legal responsibility of financially providing for the person you sponsor during their time in the United States. By signing Form I-864, you're agreeing that you have sufficient income to take care of the immigrant.

What to know about sponsoring an immigrant? ›

To sponsor a family member, the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident must file a petition on their behalf. The specific form required depends on the relationship with the beneficiary, but some of the most common forms are Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) and Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support).

How long are you financially responsible for someone you sponsor? ›

The sponsor's financial responsibility usually lasts until the applicant either becomes a U.S. citizen, or can be credited with 40 qualifying quarters of work (usually 10 years) under the Social Security Act.

What are the disadvantages of sponsoring? ›

2 Drawbacks of exclusive event sponsorship

First, it can be very expensive and risky, as the sponsor has to bear the full cost and responsibility of the event, and may not get a return on investment if the event fails to attract enough attendees, generate enough buzz, or deliver on its promises.

What are the disadvantages of sponsoring a child? ›

Envy & jealousy. Another disadvantage of individual child sponsorship is that the aid is given to only one child. This can create feelings of jealousy from the other children who don't receive any help. The non-sponsored children can feel 'unworthy' of receiving aid and their self-confidence can begin to diminish.

Can you back out of sponsoring an immigrant? ›

If you want to withdraw your sponsorship of an immigrant who has not yet become a lawful permanent resident, you need to send a written request to USCIS. In the letter, you must explain your reasons for withdrawing your sponsorship and provide evidence to support your decision.

Does sponsoring an immigrant affect credit? ›

In general, sponsoring an immigrant does not directly impact a person's ability to qualify for a mortgage or buy a home. However, creditors and mortgage lenders may ask whether or not you have any dependents and the financial obligations that are associated with supporting them.

Is an immigrant sponsor responsible for medical bills? ›

The sponsor is not responsible for any debts that the immigrant might incur. This includes all types of debt (credit card, medical, student loan, etc). Even if the immigrant is sued by a creditor or files bankruptcy, the sponsor will not be affected.

How much money should you have to sponsor an immigrant? ›

The income required of a green card sponsor is calculated by year. $22,887 a year is the most common amount of money that a person needs to be a green card sponsor. This amount of money is for someone who is not an active duty member of the military.

How to answer visa sponsorship question? ›

If a question is asked about sponsorship as part of an online application for a full-time position or an internship that could potentially lead to full-time employment, we recommend that you answer “Yes” that you will need sponsorship.

Does sponsoring an immigrant cost money USA? ›

These are the direct costs you should expect when sponsoring an immigrant: Filing fees for all necessary forms (check the filing costs with the USCIS fee calculator) Required medical exam fees if the person you're sponsoring needs help covering the cost. Immigrant visa processing fees and special services.

How much money do you need in the bank to sponsor someone? ›

2024 Minimum Annual Income Requirements for Most Sponsors: 125% of Federal Poverty Guidelines
Number of people in your household (including yourself and your spouse)*For sponsors in the 48 contiguous states, D.C., and U.S. territoriesFor sponsors in Hawaii
4 more rows

How long are you financially responsible for an immigrant you marry? ›

The sponsor's responsibility lasts until the immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen, has earned 40 work quarters credited toward Social Security (a work quarter is about three months, so this means about ten years of work), dies, or permanently leaves the United States.

Am I financially responsible if I marry an immigrant? ›

The sponsoring spouse must generally provide financial support until the immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen or has completed 40 quarters of work.

Can you get out of sponsoring an immigrant? ›

You will need to prove to USCIS that the immigrant has become a “public charge” or has committed fraud in order to have your sponsorship terminated. For example, if the green card holder entered into a fraudulent marriage in order to obtain a Green Card, you may be able to have your sponsorship terminated.

Does sponsoring an immigrant affect credit score? ›

In general, sponsoring an immigrant does not directly impact a person's ability to qualify for a mortgage or buy a home. However, creditors and mortgage lenders may ask whether or not you have any dependents and the financial obligations that are associated with supporting them.

Is it good to be a sponsor? ›

You can learn a lot from sponsoring an event, including the: Newest industry trends or business ideas. Unique selling proposition (USP) of other companies. Strategies other businesses use to attract new customers.


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