Alien Immigration Laws

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 What Does "Sponsoring an Alien" Mean?

Aliens who are likely to be a public charge upon entry to the U.S. because they are likely to end up on welfare or dependent on some other government program of public benefits, e.g., Supplemental Security Income (SSI), may not be admitted to the U.S.

To gain entry into the U.S., an alien in this position must show that someone will support them financially. The person who offers the support for an alien is their sponsor. The sponsor must show that they are financially able to support the alien by filing an Affidavit of Support.

If a person is a citizen of the U.S. or a permanent resident, they may be able to sponsor a family member for permanent resident status in this way. This wins their family member an immigrant visa, or “green card.” A green card, officially referred to as a “permanent resident card,” is an identity card showing that a person has permanent resident status in the U.S. A person who has a green card is a lawful permanent resident who has the right to work in the U.S.

But, a sponsor does not have to be a relative of the alien in order to support them for permanent residence status. People who are not relatives can be part of a group of people with a relative to sponsor an alien. A business or a person who has no relationship with the alien can serve as a co-sponsor with a relative under certain circumstances.

A major benefit of being sponsored is that those who have a green card have the right to apply for U.S. citizenship after showing by a preponderance of the evidence that they have resided continuously in the United States for 1 to 5 years. They must also show that they are people of good moral character. There are other requirements as well, but residence for the required number of years is a major requirement.

Those who are younger than 18 years old are automatically awarded U.S. citizenship if they have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen.

When a person has a green card, they are required to make the U.S. their permanent home. If they do not do this, they risk losing their residence status for the reason that they have abandoned it. If a person only spends periods of time in the U.S., but their true home is elsewhere, their permanent resident card could be revoked, or they might even be unable to enter the U.S. the next time they try to do so.

What Are the Requirements for Filing an Affidavit of Support?

There are many requirements that a person must fulfill if they wish to sponsor an alien. They must do the following:

  • Serve as the alien’s sponsor if they filed an immigrant visa petition for their relative;
  • Be at least 18 years old;
  • Have the status of either a citizen or a legal permanent resident of the U.S.;
  • Maintain a residence and actually live in the U.S.; and
  • Earn a household income equal to or greater than 125% of the poverty level for their household size, including the alien the person is sponsoring.

Earning 125% of the poverty level for a household means the following:

  • For a household with 2 members, the minimum necessary income would be $20,575;
  • For a household of 3, the minimum necessary income would be 25, 975;
  • For a household of 4, the minimum necessary income would be $31,375;
  • For a household of 5, the minimum necessary income would be $36,775
  • For a household of 6, the minimum necessary income would be $42,175;
  • For a household of 7, the minimum necessary income would be $47,575;
  • For a household of 8, the minimum necessary income would be $52,975.

Again, if a person does not meet these income requirements, they are not able to sponsor a friend or family member for immigration.

How Do I Submit an Affidavit of Support

There are several steps in filing an affidavit of support:

  • Complete Form I-864: A person must fill out an I-864 Affidavit of Support when their relative has been scheduled for a visa interview. There are instructions and a checklist for the additional documents that a person must provide included on the forms;
  • Provide proof of income for 3 years past and current income: The person must provide their federal income tax returns for the 3 most recent years along with proof of their current employment. A recent W-2 form can be used to verify a person’s current employment and income. Producing 6 months of pay stubs, tax returns for 3 years, and a letter from the person’s employer is even better;
  • Self-employed sponsor: If a sponsor is self-employed, they want to Include a copy of Schedule C, D, E, or F from their most recent federal income tax return;
  • Income from more than 1 household member: If a sponsor is relying on the income of other members of their household to meet the minimum income requirement, they should submit a completed separate Form I-864A for each person;
  • Give the Information to the Relative Applicant: After completing the Affidavit of Support, compiling the documentation, and having the affidavit notarized, a person should present this information to their relative for use in their visa or adjustment of status proceedings.

By signing an Affidavit of Support, a person accepts legal responsibility for financially supporting their alien relative until either the relative obtains citizenship or the relative can be credited for paying Social Security tax for 40 quarters of work. Earning credit for 40 quarters of work takes about 10 years.

Again, the immigrant may receive certain means-tested public benefits, e.g., SNAP benefits, commonly known as “food stamps,” or Medicaid. Because of this, the sponsor is responsible for reimbursing the costs to the agency that provided the benefits.

Sponsored immigrants do sometimes apply for and receive means-tested public benefits from federal, state, or local governments. Means-tested public benefits include Medicaid, SSI, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the State Child Health Insurance Program.

Sponsored immigrants may not be eligible for certain means-tested public benefits because the agency takes into account the sponsor’s resources and assets and those of the sponsor’s household members in determining the immigrant’s eligibility for the benefits.

However, if an immigrant who is named on a sponsor’s Affidavit of Support does receive a means-tested public benefit while the Affidavit is in force, the sponsor will be responsible for reimbursing the agency that provides the benefit. If the sponsor should fail to reimburse the agency, the agency can go to court and get a court order for repayment.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Sponsoring an Alien?

If you wish to sponsor a relative or friend for immigration into the U.S., you want to consult an experienced immigration lawyer. can quickly connect you to a lawyer who can help you complete the paperwork correctly and immediately. Your lawyer can help your application for sponsorship succeed on the first try.


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