It's an exciting time in your family when a member is ready to apply for a green card. Because his or her application relies on a family visa, a sponsor is required, and you stepped up to fulfill that role. After all, you support your loved one's aspirations of becoming a citizen one day, and this is the next step.
So, you find out that you must fill out Form I-864, the Affidavit of Support. You take one look at it and wonder if you are in over your head. Don't feel bad; even immigration attorneys have issues with this form. Fortunately, one that has substantial experience in filling them out could prove useful to you.
Being a sponsor
First, you need to determine whether you meet the sponsorship qualifications set forth by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. To sponsor your family member, you must meet the following criteria:
- You must be over the age of 18.
- You must be a U.S. citizen, a lawful permanent resident or a U.S. national.
- You must have proof of United States residency.
- You must have proof of income of 125 percent more than the national poverty line.
Members of the U.S. military, residents of Alaska and residents of Hawaii fall under different income requirements.
Being responsible to support
It's often the income requirements that cause concern. USCIS wants to be sure that the green card applicant won't become reliant on public benefits programs. As sponsor, you guarantee that won't happen. However, your income may not meet the minimum. Does that mean you can't serve as a sponsor? Not necessarily, you may be able to do the following:
- You could recruit a co-sponsor. Your joint incomes may meet the requirements.
- You could add the income of other members of your household. Those individuals will need to fill out Form I-864A.
- You could include any assets you have that you can turn into cash in a year's time without causing you any hardship.
Once you meet the income threshold, you should know that you remain financially responsible for your family member even if they have a job until one of the following occurs:
- He or she leaves the United States and does not have a valid green card.
- He or she becomes a U.S. citizen.
- He or she receives enough Social Security credits.
- He or she dies.
If your family member becomes subject to removal, the process may need to begin again. If you no longer serve as the sponsor, your responsibility may end.
Incorrectly filling out this form may cause a denial or delay your family member's receipt of a green card. Furthermore, if you don't fully understand your responsibilities as a sponsor, your future could end up in jeopardy. Immigration law can be confusing and frustrating. Even filling out a seemingly simple form can cause a great deal of consternation and stress. You may benefit from involving an attorney in the process of helping your loved one obtain a green card in order to help ensure that the process goes smoothly.