To sponsor an immigrant for a green card, the petitioner needs to file Form I-864 Affidavit Of Support. This form is an agreement that the petitioner will be financially responsible for the immigrant when they are allowed into the country. Form I-864 cites the federal poverty guidelines for minimum income requirements that the sponsor must meet before applying for their petition.
In the event that the primary sponsor’s income and that of his household members do not meet these financial requirements, they may seek financial support from other people as stipulated by the USCIS laws. A joint sponsor is one of the options a sponsor can seek for additional support.
A green card joint sponsor is someone who is willing to take sponsorship responsibilities of a petitioner to support the financial requirements of an immigrant. They are also referred to as financial co-sponsor. The joint sponsor does not replace the petitioner, instead, this individual must meet the same requirements the petitioner is subjected. The joint sponsor also files a separate Form I-864, which is submitted along with other applications.
The reason an immigrant’s green card application needs to be sponsored is to ensure that the immigrant does not become a public charge to the U.S. government. A public charge is someone who is primarily reliant on the government for subsistence through government funding as their income or government institutions for care.
An immigrant is regarded as inadmissible if they are a public charge, therefore, the sole reason for sponsoring them is to cushion the government and the public from such expenses.
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When Is A Joint Sponsor Required?
When the primary sponsor and household member’s income fail to amount to the minimum income requirements, the sponsor may involve a joint sponsor. This may happen when the petitioner meets the threshold in their tax returns for the most recent year, but not the previous one. Therefore, the USCIS may reject the application citing the inconsistency and instability of the primary sponsor.
Another instance that may require a financial co-sponsor is when the U.S. Citizen uses foreign income sources that the U.S. government does not recognize under the IRS Form 1040, Federal Individual Tax Return. If the income cannot be transferred to the U.S. due to restrictions in the country of origin, the U.S government may not consider the source reliable. The income will be recorded as a loss, which means that the applicant’s income is not enough to sponsor the intended immigrant.
Who Can Be A Joint Sponsor For A Green Card?
The Federal Poverty Guidelines further explain the eligibility requirements that should be met by a person willing to be such a sponsor. However, the person does not have to be related to or living in the same residence as the petitioner. The joint sponsor’s income is also calculated based on their household size and location. Below are details of additional requirements:
- The person must be a U.S. citizen or a green card holder
- The person must be at least 18 years of age
- The person must be living in the United States
- The person must not be a household member of the primary sponsor or living in the same residence as the applicant
- The person must meet the 125% minimum income requirement of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
- The person must be willing to give their financial support to the immigrant
Difference Between A Joint Sponsor And Household Member
A household member may be easily confused about a joint sponsor or vice versa. While both serve similar purposes, the two have distinct differences that set them apart. A household member supplements the income difference of a primary sponsor. For example, if a petitioner’s required income is $17,040, and his total income and assets is $15, 040, the household member is required to meet the difference of $2,000. The household member files Form I-864A, Contract Between Spouse and Household Member.
On the other hand, a joint sponsor must meet all the financial requirements as a primary sponsor would. This means that if the primary sponsor is required to have $17,040 dollars as their minimum income, the joint sponsor has to meet the same amount. Just like the primary sponsor, the joint sponsor files Form I-864.
A household member must be related to the main sponsor and living with them in the same residence, or at least within the past six months. On the other hand, a joint sponsor may not be a relative of the petitioner and they should not be living in the same residence, or any other residence belonging to the petitioner.
The Joint Sponsor’s Assets In The United States
If the Income of the financial co-sponsor does not completely cover the requirements, their assets may also be listed as a source of income. The assets will have to be five times the difference between the minimum required income and the joint sponsor’s income. The assets that can be presented include property, savings, bonds, stocks, among others. These assets should be easy to liquidate without having a heavy financial impact on the financial co-sponsor.
Documents That Accompany The Affidavit Of Support
The USCIS may require some documents to accompany Form I-864 and Form I-864A as evidence to prove that the sponsors are indeed owners of the assets mentioned and the incomes quoted in their forms. These documents are not limited to the following:
- Proof of U.S citizenship or lawful permanent resident
- Proof of ownership of the assets mentioned (if any)
- In case of foreign income, USCIS will need proof that the income can be transferred
- If the joint sponsor has any support from a household member, the member has to file a separate Form I-864A.
The Responsibilities Of A Joint Sponsor
Once a person files Form I-864 Affidavit of Support, the joint sponsor officially accepts the obligation of financially supporting the sponsored immigrant. These obligations are as follows:
Financial Support To The Sponsored Immigrant
The joint sponsor becomes equally responsible for the immigrant just as the primary sponsor. They must maintain their income threshold above the minimum requirement, and keep the same household size until their obligations to the intending immigrant are lifted.
Reimbursing The Government When The Immigrant Receives Public Benefits
The affidavit of support is meant to ensure that the government does not allow an immigrant into the country when they have no one to take care of them. When the U.S. government discovers that the immigrant is a public charge, they consider the immigrant inadmissible.
If the government takes care of the immigrant with its funds through any government agency, the joint sponsor will be charged for the costs, referred to as the federal means-tested public benefits. The charge is only effected when the affidavit of support is in effect. When this happens, it means that the government takes responsibility for the immigrant.
Therefore, it is the responsibility of the sponsors to reimburse the government or any other agency that took care of the immigrant. If this does not happen, the agency can obtain a court order against the sponsors of the immigrant to demand reimbursement. However, as of February 2021, the Biden administration is reviewing the public charge rule.
Public Benefits Available For Green Card Holders
There are some exceptions to the public benefits a green card holder is eligible for. These are basic benefits that are meant to protect the lives of individuals and guarantee their safety in the United States. These benefits are known as non-cash assistance such as medical emergencies and unemployment compensation.
Sharing The New Address With The USCIS
Every time a joint sponsor changes their residential address, it is their duty to inform USCIS of their new location. This is done by filing Form I-865, The Sponsor’s Notice of Change of Address. The sponsor should notify the USCIS within 30 days from the date of moving to the new address. It is important that the government knows where the sponsors live for ease of communication and reference regarding immigration issues.
The Obligation Period Of A Joint Sponsor
The joint sponsor begins their financial obligation to the intending immigrant as soon as the USCIS approves the U.S citizen’s sponsor’s petition. These obligations last until an immigrant completes 40 quarters of work, which is the equivalent of ten years.
End of Financial Obligations Of A Joint Sponsor For An Immigrant
Apart from completing the 40 quarters, the financial obligations of a joint sponsor will be terminated if any of the following occurs:
- Death of the immigrant
- Death of the joint sponsor
- The immigrant is awarded a green card after winning deportation proceedings
- The immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen
- If the sponsor abandons their permanent residence
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The Number Of Joint Sponsors Allowed
A petitioner may be allowed to select a maximum of two joint sponsors. Occasionally, a second sponsor may be required if the sponsored immigrant has dependents, such as children. In that case, their minimum household income becomes higher than that of a single sponsored immigrant.
If all the combined income and assets of the primary sponsor, their household members, and first joint sponsor do not meet the federal minimum income requirements, a second joint sponsor may be added.
The second joint sponsor’s responsibility is to offer financial support to the dependents of the immigrant who could not be covered within the first income range. To be eligible, this joint sponsor must meet all the requirements as the first joint sponsor and the petitioner.
Consequences Of Failure To Perform Obligations By A Joint Sponsor
The affidavit of support is a binding contract that both parties need to abide by. The two financial obligations that a joint sponsor has is to support the immigrant or reimburse the government if the immigrant collects any cash benefits from a government agency. The sponsor is also obliged to update the government of their new addresses in case they relocate.
Failure To Offer Financial Support To The Immigrant
If the sponsor fails to meet their obligations, the immigrant may file a lawsuit against them. The green card holder may get compensation for the difference in their income and the minimum income requirement needed for their sponsorship. If the income of the immigrant does not meet the 125% federal guidelines, they may sue their sponsor to compensate for the margin. If the immigrant has no source of income or may have lost their job, and the affidavit still stands, then the immigrant may file a lawsuit.
Failure To Reimburse The Government
The government agency that supported the immigrant may sue the sponsors for failure to compensate them. The government agency may seek to collect their money including the legal fees incurred during the process.
Failure To Update The Government Of New Location Address
The USCIS gives a 30-day period within which a sponsor must inform them of a change of address. If the sponsor is a lawful permanent resident, USCIS requires that they inform them of any change in address within 10 days of relocating. Failure to do so may attract cash fines ranging between $250 and $5,000. This could lead to criminal prosecution if the USCIS discovers any malicious intent regarding a sponsor’s decision not to notify the government agency about the new address.
Some Frequently Asked Questions About A Joint Sponsor
Some of the frequently asked questions about a joint sponsor include:
Can A Joint Sponsor Be Retired?
The answer is yes. If the sponsor has retirement benefits and other investments, they may include them in the affidavit to meet the income threshold of 125 percent.
What Are The Penalties Of Falsifying An Affidavit Of Support?
Falsification of documents is punishable by immigration law. The applicant may be denied some immigration benefits, and the offense may lead to criminal prosecution. The government will verify all the information provided in the affidavit, which may include their employment status and income, their assets, their social security, and more.
What Happens If A Joint Sponsor Dies Before The Green Card Is Processed?
If the joint sponsor dies before the green card process is over, the primary sponsor will be required to find their replacement for the visa process to continue. The new sponsor will have to be just as eligible to meet the minimum income requirements. The replacement will have to file a new Form I-864 and submit all the required documents for the process.
Where Does A Joint Sponsor Send Their Affidavit Of Support?
Duly completed and signed affidavits are usually submitted to the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) to the National Visa Center (NVC). This form is accompanied by all the other supporting documents as earlier mentioned in this article. The NVC will not process any incomplete forms or forms that have missing pages.