Many people who come in to our office for a green card consultation are surprised when we inform them that in order to bring your relative to the US, you must also sign and qualify for the “affidavit of support.” What is the affidavit of support?
I-864 Affidavit of Support
The affidavit of support is a document signed by a green card sponsor, usually a relative, that agrees to financially support the individual coming to live in the United States. The “sponsor” as the affiant is called, is usually the petitioner of an immigrant petition for a family member. This document has the force and effect of a legal, binding contract with the Federal Government. By signing this document, you are guaranteeing to the government that you will financially support the immigrant once they obtain legal permanent residency. The law concerning the affidavit of support can be found in sections 212(a)(4) and 213A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
The Problem We Encounter Frequently
Before you go out and sign on the dotted line for your relative you need to make sure you meet one very important threshold—you earn enough income to equal at least 125% of the federal poverty level. Unfortunately, in Appalachia in areas like West Virginia, this is not common. A lot of our clients are on public assistance and therefore cannot guarantee that they will be able to meet the threshold. At first glance this doesn’t seem fair, but consider the policy decision behind this. Should be allowing immigrants to come to the US and accept public assistance? Congress has made clear that this is not the goal. Therefore, if you do not earn at least 125% above the poverty level, then you will not qualify as a sponsor. Furthermore, if you are the petitioner for your relative’s green card, then you must be the sponsor.
Can I Get Someone Else to Be the Sponsor?
There are 2 exceptions to the general rule that the petitioner must be the sponsor: (1) You may obtain a “Joint Sponsor,” or (2) you may obtain a “substitute sponsor.”
A joint sponsor can be someone who is not related to the immigrant; however, that individual’s income must meet the 125% alone—without consideration of the petitioning relative. But be advised, this obligates the joint sponsor to the federal government, and the joint sponsor can be sued if either of the sponsors fail to provide adequate financial support.
A substitute sponsor may be obtained only in certain circumstances such as the death of the original petitioning US relative. Thus, this is never really an option except in limited instances.
If you are petitioning for your relative to come to the US on a green card and you do not make enough money to meet the 125% threshold, then your only option is to find a joint sponsor willing to guarantee support if you are unable to. Unfortunately, in Appalachia, in states like West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky, this problem arises often due to higher than usually poverty rates. We are always willing to work with our clients to find available joint sponsors.
Seth Gaskins is an immigration lawyer and founder of Cardinal Immigration, an immigration law firm providing legal services in West Virginia and throughout Appalachia and other underserved areas. Seth believes that immigrants in these areas are underserved and strives to provide these individuals with exceptional legal services that otherwise would require travel to big cities and large fees.
Seth S. Gaskins, Esq. is a Divorce and Immigration Attorney in West Virginia.