As part of the process of immigrating to the U.S. based on an I-130 petition, it is required that the I-130 petitioner submit a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. By signing this form, the petitioner attests they will financially provide for the intending immigrant if necessary.
By Tabitha O'Connell
As part of the process of immigrating to the U.S. based on an I-130 petition, it is required that the I-130 petitioner submit a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. By signing this form, the petitioner attests they will financially provide for the intending immigrant if necessary. This ensures that the intending immigrant will not become a public charge. In order to show that they have the means to support the immigrant, the petitioner must have a certain level of income, which is 125 percent of the Health and Human Services Poverty Guidelines for their household size (or 100% for sponsors who are on active duty in the U.S. armed forces and are petitioning for a spouse or child).
If the petitioner's income is too low, they may combine their income with a household member's, or use their assets to supplement their income. However, if neither of these are an option or if the petitioner is still unable to meet the requirement, they may find another person who is willing to act as a joint sponsor. A joint sponsor is any U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or lawful permanent resident who is at least 18 years old, is domiciled in the United States or its territories/possessions, and is willing to be held jointly and severally liable with the petitioner for the support of the intending immigrant. The joint sponsor need not be related to the petitioner. The joint sponsor must independently meet the income requirement for their own household size, which must include the intending immigrant.
It should be noted that even if the I-130 petitioner cannot meet the income requirements for the affidavit of support, he must still file one in addition to the joint sponsor's affidavit of support. There is no way to get around this requirement. By filing an I-864 the petitioner accepts liability for any means tested public benefits accessed by the beneficiary. The joint sponsor similarly accepts this liability, meaning that if the immigrant accesses any means tested public benefits, the government agency that provided the benefits may sue either the petitioner, the joint sponsor, or both, for the value of any benefits provided. While such government actions are rare, they are a legal possibility. More commonly, however, affidavits of support are enforced in divorce proceedings. Divorce does not terminate a petitioner's liability under the affidavit of support. Therefore a petitioner and/or joint sponsor may be sued by the federal government even after a divorce. More notably, the sponsored immigrant may also present the affidavit of support in divorce proceedings as a means of obtaining financial support from the petitioner following the divorce.
If there are multiple intending immigrants and the joint sponsor does not have a high enough income to sponsor all of them, it is possible for there to be a second joint sponsor. In this case each one would only sponsor some of the intending immigrants—for instance, in a case where the principal applicant has two dependents, one joint sponsor could sponsor the principal applicant only, and the other could sponsor the two dependents. The maximum number of joint sponsors permitted is two.
Being a joint sponsor requires completing and submitting Form I-864, along with the required supporting documentation, just like the petitioner. So whenever there is a joint sponsor, the sponsored immigrant will be submitting two affidavits of support (or three, if there are two joint sponsors). The obligation to support the immigrant lasts until the immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen, until they can be credited with 40 qualifying quarters of work in the U.S., or until the sponsor or the immigrant dies.