Any person seeking to immigrate to the United States pursuant to a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, must have a financial sponsor who signs and submits a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support to the Department of Homeland Security. With this Affidavit of Support, the sponsor agrees to financially support the intending immigrant at 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines to ensure that the intending immigrant will not become reliant on any means-tested public benefit. What many people do not realize is the extreme durability of this contract, which lasts through divorce and even bankruptcy.
The Affidavit of Support is essentially a contract between the U.S. government and the sponsor. Should the sponsored immigrant receive certain types of means-tested benefits while the Affidavit of Support remains in effect, the government may demand the reimbursement of those benefits from the sponsor. Means-tested benefits include Food Stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the State Child Health Insurance Plan.
The affidavit is also a contract between the sponsor and intending immigrant. The intending immigrant even has the right to sue in order to enforce the sponsor’s obligation. There are five circumstances in which a sponsor’s obligations will no longer be required:
1. The beneficiary becomes a U.S. citizen.
2. The beneficiary can be credited with 40 qualifying quarters of work (equal to about 10 years of work).
3. The beneficiary becomes subject to removal but applies for and obtains a new grant of adjustment of status.
4. The applicant ceases to be a lawful permanent resident and leaves the United States.
5. The applicant dies.
Most notably, the sponsor’s obligation continues even through divorce. In previous cases, courts have ruled that even in divorce the sponsored immigrant has no duty to look for other means of support (Liu v. Mund). Filing bankruptcy also cannot free a sponsor from the burdens of an affidavit of support. When filing for bankruptcy, there are certain debts that are excluded from discharge, and “domestic support obligations” are one such type. These domestic support obligations can be support owed to the beneficiary or to the government for benefit reimbursement.
If you have questions regarding a Petition for Alien Relative or the Affidavit of Support, please schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!