Have you ever wondered how sponsorship works? Sponsorship is an integral part of the immigration process, especially when you want petition family members to come to the United States. Sponsoring an immigrant is going to come up in the following situations: (1) the issuance of a visa to an immigrant or (2) adjustment of status (obtaining a green card). Many times the sponsorship requirement can be a bit overwhelming or confusing for those who are petitioning for a family member to become a legal permanent resident.
Why is sponsorship needed? The main reason sponsorship is required is because the federal government wants to ensure that anyone coming to the United States on a visa or adjusting their status has the financial means to take care of themselves and not become a public charge. So what is a public charge? A public charge is someone who is more likely than not to primarily become dependent on government assistance at either the local, state or federal level. These programs consist of food stamps, medical assistance, and cash assistance programs to name a few. If the government determines that a person will become a public charge, he or she is deemed inadmissible pursuant to the immigration laws today.
To make sure the immigrant does not become public charge, he or she needs a sponsor. The person petitioning on behalf of the immigrant must be the sponsor. Additionally, the sponsor must be at least 18 years of age and a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. The sponsor must show that the household income is equal to or higher than 125% of United States poverty level for your household size. Calculating the household size can be tricky and this is where a competent immigration attorney can come in handy.
If the main sponsor does not meet the household income requirements, then a joint sponsor is needed. The joint sponsor has to meet the same income requirements based his or her household size. Additionally, the joint sponsor must be willing to accept the same legal responsibilities as you. Unfortunately, the main sponsor and the joint sponsor cannot combine incomes to meet the income requirement.
By being a sponsor, you are essentially making a “contract” with the Federal Government. This contract is to ensure you provide any support necessary to maintain the immigrant at an income that is equal to or higher than 125% of the federal poverty guidelines for your household size. Essentially, the sponsor avows the immigrant will not rely on any means-tested benefits such as food stamps, medical assistance, etc. Other potential consequences of becoming a sponsor is that the U.S. government, or even the local or state government, can use your income and assets to determine if the immigrant is eligible for certain means-tested public benefits. Finally, if the government (federal, state, local) or private agency provided means-tested public benefits to the immigrant, the government may come after the sponsor for reimbursement.
Your obligations as a sponsor are considered fulfilled when either one of the following occur:
- Intending immigrant becomes a U.S. Citizen;
- Has worked or received credit for 40 quarters of coverage under Social Security;
- Is no longer a legal permanent resident and has departed the country;
- Is subject to removal and applies for and obtains a new grant of adjustment of status with a new affidavit of support; or,
- If you or the intending immigrant dies
It is important to note that divorce does not terminate a sponsor or joint sponsor's obligation to financially support the immigrant.
While the information provided is general in nature, it is always important to speak to a qualified immigration attorney about the obligations of becoming a sponsor and the intricacies of joint or co-sponsorship. This is an important step in the process of an immediate relative obtaining an immigrant visa or adjustment of status. You do not want the application process to be prolonged or denied by not providing the proper information. Call the Law Office of Michael D. Post at (520) 244-3600 for any of your immigration needs.