U.S. immigration policy generally expects immigrants not to become public charges when they arrive in the country. Therefore, before approving an individual’s green card application, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services often requires the sponsor to submit an affidavit of support. 

The affidavit of support is a legally binding contract that requires the sponsor to provide adequate financial support to the green card recipient. If you are thinking about executing an affidavit of support, you should understand your legal responsibilities. 

Do you qualify?

If you intend to sponsor a family member for legal permanent residency, you likely must execute an affidavit of support. To do so, though, your income must be at least 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. If you do not meet this threshold, you may need to find a joint sponsor who can file a separate affidavit of support on your immigrant relative’s behalf. 

What are your obligations?

When you execute an affidavit of support, you agree to provide financial support to the immigrant after he or she receives legal permanent residency. This obligation continues until one of the following occurs: 

  • The immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen 
  • The immigrant permanently leaves the U.S. or dies 
  • The immigrant earns 40 Social Security work credits 

After the USCIS approves your relative’s adjustment of status request, you are on the hook for financial support. If the immigrant receives certain government benefits, you must repay the debt. You also must notify the USCIS every time you move to a new address. 

Clearly, the legally enforceable affidavit of support saddles you with considerable obligations. As a result, before signing one or agreeing to act as a joint sponsor, you may want legal counsel.