Common questions about sponsoring spouse financial responsibility

Learn about the financial obligation a person takes on when sponsoring his or her spouse for a greencard. Get helpful information about the legal issues of the process.

One of the easiest ways for a U.S. citizen to help an immigrant come into the country and live in New York legally is through marriage. A person can sponsor his or her spouse for a greencard and eventual citizenship. However, when doing this, a person should be aware that he or she will take of financial responsibility for his or her spouse.

What is the sponsorship requirement?

When sponsoring a spouse, a person must sign Form I-864, which is the Affidavit of Support, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This is a legal contract that says the sponsor will financially support the immigrant.

Who can sign an I-864?

There are rules for who can sign the affidavit which protect both parties. The main requirement is that the sponsor must meet income guidelines. He or she must prove his or her income is more than 125% of the U.S. poverty level for the household size. If the sponsor is active duty military, this reduces to 100% of the poverty level. If the sponsor's income does not meet the level, then he or she may use the cash value of his or her assets, the value of the immigrant's assets and/or income from any dependents in the household.

In addition, a sponsor must be a U.S. citizen and live in the United States. If someone lives outside the U.S., he or she must show it is temporary and prove residency within the country. Finally, a sponsor must be at least 18 years old.

How long does the financial obligation last?

The legal responsibility to provide financially for the immigrant will last until either party dies or until the immigrant becomes a citizen or earns credit for 40 quarters of work, which is typically 10 years.

It is essential for sponsors to understand that divorce does not end the obligation. Additionally, a prenuptial agreement cannot void the obligation.

What else should someone know about being a sponsor?

Sponsors should understand the U.S. government takes financial responsibility very seriously and will take a sponsor to court for breaking the contract. One example of not providing for the immigrant is if the immigrant receives public aid based on income. In this case, the sponsor must repay the benefits or face a lawsuit.

Forbes explains that for protection, a sponsor should encourage his or her spouse to obtain citizenship as soon as possible, which is usually at the three-year point. Once he or she becomes a citizen, it frees up the sponsor legally for financial support.

Sponsoring a spouse is very common when it comes to immigration. However, that does not mean it is not without its issues. If you have issues with sponsorship, you may want to seek the advice of an attorney, such as Polizzotto & Polizzotto.