US citizens and lawful permanent residents of the US have the right to petition for certain family members to be admitted to this country. They also have the right to petition for a future spouse to be admitted. This can also apply to a family member or fiancé who is already in the US in some cases. In all cases, a US citizen or permanent resident will need to fill out an I-864 Affidavit of Support accepting financial responsibility for the person coming to the US. The person who signs the affidavit of support becomes the sponsor of the immigrant once a green card is issued to the immigrant. The person signing the affidavit is usually the one filing the petition for the immigrant to come to the US but it can be someone else.
The minimum income requirement to sponsor an immigrant is 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. The amount changes from year-to-year as the level is adjusted. The 2020 minimum annual income requirements for a household with two people is $21,550. That’s the amount one person has to make to sponsor another person to come to the US if there is no one else living in the house. The amount is $27,150 for a household with three people and $32,750 for a household with four people. So if a US citizen with two children from a previous marriage wanted to sponsor a new fiancé to come to the US, he or she would need to be able to show income of at least $32,750. The amounts above are for the lower 48 states and the income requirements for people in Alaska and Hawaii are 20% and 13% higher respectively.
If the petitioner does not make enough money he or she can also submit a second affidavit from a joint sponsor. A joint sponsor is someone who is willing to accept legal responsibility for supporting the family member. A joint sponsor has to meet all of the same requirements but does not need to be related to the immigrant. If an affidavit from a joint sponsor is submitted, the joint sponsor’s income alone has must reach the 125% income requirement alone. The petitioner cannot combine his or her income with a joint sponsor to meet the income requirement.
Each person who signs a sponsorship affidavit is agreeing to reimburse the government if the immigrant receives any means tested public benefit. Means-tested public benefits include Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and a State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Not all government financial assistance is considered a means-tested public benefit and examples of assistance that a sponsor would not be responsible for include benefits provided in a disaster or emergency, unemployment or worker’s compensation benefits, public school or school lunch programs, or benefits provided to pregnant women.
The affidavit of support will be in affect until the sponsored immigrant becomes a US citizen or is credited with 40 quarters of “covered employment” as defined by the Social Security Administration. It typically takes at least five years of residence before a lawful permanent resident can apply to become a US citizen and at least ten years to reach 40 quarters of work. The sponsorship obligation is also terminated if the immigrant dies or is deported but is not terminated by divorce.
If you have questions about petitioning for an immigrant relative to the come to the US, call our office today (225) 963-9638 to schedule a consultation. At Rusty Messer & Associates we’ve been helping immigrants for more than 15 years.