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Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.

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  • Writer's pictureParviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.

What are U.S. Green Card Sponsor Obligations?

An affidavit of support acts as a legal obligation to throw a financial lifeline if necessary

At Malakouti Law, we get contacted from time to time from people who have been asked to be a joint sponsor for an immigrant applying for a U.S. green card. These people want to know:

  • What does it mean to sponsor someone?

  • How long does the obligation last?

  • Can being a joint sponsor put them at risk financially?

These are important questions that we’ll do our best to answer in this short article.

Article Outline:

I-864 Affidavit of Support

The vast majority of applicants for U.S. legal permanent residency (i.e. a green card) must have a sponsor. In family-based cases in which there is a petitioner, the petitioner must be a sponsor. Most often, the sponsor obligates him or herself by submitting an I-864 or I-864EZ affidavit of support.

This is the key document used to sponsor an immigrant applying for a green card whether by consular processing (in which an applicant’s immigrant visa is processed outside of the United States) or by adjustment of status (in which the applicant’s green card application is processed inside the United States).

If you are not the petitioner, not the person who applied for the immigrant, you may be asked to co-sponsor them. This means to obligate yourself in an enforceable contract to keep the immigrant to maintain the immigrant at least at the level of 125% of the U.S. federal poverty guidelines.

In cases in which the petitioner-sponsor does not earn enough money to sponsor the intending immigrant on their own, a joint sponsor can be found. If you’ve been asked to sponsor an immigrant who you did not petition for, you are being asked to be a joint sponsor.

What Does Sponsoring an Immigrant Actually Mean?

Being a green card sponsor means that if the intending immigrant earns less than a certain amount while living in the U.S. as a legal permanent resident, then you may be obligated to bring up their support to 125%. There are two ways this obligation may be enforced against you as a sponsor:

  • The immigrant can sue you in court to enforce that promise

  • The government can sue you for reimbursement if the immigrant has to get public assistance

In case you're wondering, the affidavit of support is legally enforceable as a contract and it has been enforced in several courts around the United States.

How Long Does the Obligation Last?

The obligation stays valid until one of the following four things happens:

  • They naturalize, becoming a U.S. citizen

  • They accrue at least 40 quarters of social security through employment

  • If the immigrant passes away

  • If the immigrant permanently leaves the country, abandoning their permanent residency (for example, by filing an I-407).

If any of these four events occur, you would be alleviated from being a sponsor of that obligation that obligates you to maintain the immigrant at least the level of 125% of the federal poverty guidelines, if necessary.

Otherwise, you’re on the hook as a sponsor.

Video Explainer

Request a Consultation with Malakouti Law

If you need help with a citizenship and immigration matter, you can request a consultation with the Law Office of Parviz Malakouti here.

Each immigration and citizenship case is particular and you should consult with a qualified immigration and citizenship lawyer about your case before taking any steps. The Law Office of Parviz Malakouti does not guarantee the accuracy of information presented nor assume responsibility for actions taken in reliance of this information. The information in this page could become outdated. Attorney marketing.

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