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Risks of Sponsoring an Immigrant: Financial and Legal Responsibilities Explained

Explore our in-depth guide on responding to a Request for Initial Evidence in immigration cases. Tadeo & Silva Immigration provides expert advice to navigate this crucial step effectively.

Author: Massiel Silva Tadeo, Founder, Tadeo & Silva

Attorney Massiel Silva Tadeo is a partner and owner at The Tadeo & Silva Law Firm. She specializes in removal (deportation) defense, family immigration, and hardship waivers. Updated on: February 23, 2024.

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Sponsoring an Immigrant: What It Takes

Sponsoring an immigrant to the United States is a generous and life-changing gesture. It’s a commitment that involves more than just supporting a visa application; it’s a legally binding pledge to the U.S. government, ensuring that the immigrant will not become a public charge.

Understanding the liabilities and financial responsibilities involved is crucial, as it can affect both the sponsor’s and the immigrant’s future. As sponsors, individuals agree to provide financial support and ensure the immigrant has the means to live without depending on government welfare programs.

At Tadeo & Silva Law, we recognize the compassion behind each decision to sponsor a family member for a green card or U.S. citizenship. However, we also know that the decision comes with significant legal responsibilities that should not be underestimated. Our team is dedicated to guiding families through the nuanced immigration regulations, ensuring they are fully informed of the potential consequences and requirements of sponsorship. We believe that families belong together, and our role is to facilitate this process with legal precision and personalized attention.

If you’re considering sponsoring a relative for permanent residency or are curious about your existing obligations as a sponsor, we invite you to reach out to us. Our years of experience in handling family-based immigration matters have equipped us with the tools to protect your interests and help build a secure future for your family here in the United States. Let our proficient and caring legal team at Tadeo & Silva Law support you in this important step toward reuniting your family with confidence.

Understanding Sponsorship

When sponsoring a family member for legal permanent residency in the United States, it’s essential to fully understand the legal responsibilities involved as a sponsor. The sponsorship process entails submitting an Affidavit of Support, which essentially serves as a contract with the U.S. government.

The critical legal requirements of being a sponsor are as follows: 

  1. Complete Required Forms: An essential form is the I-864, Affidavit of Support, which is a contract with the U.S. government for sponsored immigrants. By completing this form, sponsors pledge to financially support the family member seeking residency if necessary.
  2. Maintain Income Level: Your income must meet or exceed the poverty guidelines.
  3. Update Address Changes: Notify USCIS within 30 days if you change your address.

To initiate the process, the sponsor must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Hold U.S. citizen or permanent resident status
  • Live in the United States

By signing the affidavit of support, you promise to maintain financial responsibility for the relative. This financial obligation might extend to housing, food, healthcare, and other living expenses.

Should these obligations not be met, legal action can be taken against you. Therefore, it is crucial that you speak with an experienced immigration lawyer in Atlanta to ensure a full understanding of legal obligations and compliance.

Legal Risks

When considering the sponsorship of a family member for a green card, it is paramount to be fully aware of the associated risks that come with taking on these heavy legal and financial responsibilities. These include the following:

Financial Responsibility

First and foremost, sponsors are legally bound to provide financial support to the immigrant. This is executed through the Affidavit of Support, which ensures that the sponsored relative will not become a public charge.

  • Affidavit of Support: A legally enforceable contract with the U.S. government.
  • Income Requirements: Sponsors must prove income at least 125% above the federal poverty line.
  • Reimbursement: If the immigrant receives certain public benefits, the sponsor may need to reimburse these costs.

It’s important to recognize that sponsorship entails a significant commitment, typically lasting until the immigrant either becomes a U.S. citizen or accrues 40 quarters of work credits, usually spanning 10 years.

Income Requirements

A sponsor must demonstrate the ability to support the first immigrant spouse at:

  • 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines

This includes:

  • The sponsor’s household size
  • The immigrant as an additional member

Assets Consideration

If income does not meet the threshold, assets may be included. They must be:

  • Readily convertible to cash
  • Valued at a specified percentage of their worth

Liabilities

Sponsors can be:

  • Held legally responsible if the immigrant receives certain types of public benefits
  • Expected to repay the cost of benefits

It’s crucial to carefully assess your financial capacity before deciding to sponsor, as the obligations can be significant and long-lasting. Our aim is to protect our clients’ interests while helping them reunite with their family members in a more financially responsible and legally compliant manner.

Legal Accountability

The risks can extend into legal accountability if the sponsor’s obligations are not met or if there are changes in the sponsored individual’s circumstances.

  • Enforcement Actions: Legal actions can be taken against sponsors who do not fulfill their financial obligations.
  • Divorce: A sponsor’s responsibility continues despite any marital status changes, until conditions are met like citizenship or work credits.

Understanding these obligations requires a thorough analysis of legal responsibility and guidance. Our firm stands ready to navigate these complex legal pathways with our clients, ensuring that they can meet these responsibilities and mitigate potential risks.

Risks in Different Scenarios

When sponsoring a former spouse of an immigrant for a green card, there are several scenarios where we, as your legal counsel, caution you to understand potential risks.

Family-Based Sponsorship:

  • Financial Commitment: When you sign an affidavit of support, you pledge to financially support the family member. If they need government assistance, you could be responsible for repaying those costs.
  • Divorce Implications: Legal obligations from the Affidavit might surface in divorce settlements.

Scenario-Specific Risks:

  1. Healthcare Liability: Should the person you sponsor require substantial medical care and be unable to pay, you might be held liable for the expenses.
  2. Public Benefits: If your sponsored family member receives certain public benefits, as a sponsor, you could be sued to reimburse the government.

Mitigating Risks

When sponsoring an immigrant, risk mitigation is a crucial step. As a law firm deeply immersed in family-based immigration, we understand the significance of preparing our clients for the sponsorship process. Here are strategic steps to minimize potential risks:

  1. Thorough Evaluation: Before initiating sponsorship, we conduct a detailed assessment of your financial situation. This step is fundamental to ensure you meet the income requirements to support the immigrant and your household without dependency on public assistance.
  2. Legal Documentation: Ensuring all documents, especially the affidavit of support, are prepared meticulously is key. Mistakes in paperwork can lead to delays or denials, so we place a strong emphasis on accuracy and completeness.
  3. Clear Understanding of Obligations: It’s essential to comprehend the legal responsibilities that come with the Affidavit of Support. As a sponsor, you’re agreeing to financially support the immigrant, and you may have to reimburse the government should the immigrant receive certain public benefits. We make sure you fully understand these obligations.
  4. Contingency Planning: Setting up a contingency plan for unexpected financial downturns can protect you from breaches of sponsorship obligations. We advise our clients on savings strategies and financial safety nets.
  5. Continuous Legal Support: Even after the application process, maintaining a close relationship with us ensures that you have ongoing legal support. Changes in circumstances or laws can affect your status as a sponsor; we’re here to provide guidance throughout the entire period of enforceability.

Proactively addressing potential risks with these methods not only bolsters the sponsorship process but also safeguards your interests. Our team is poised to navigate you through these intricacies, ensuring a successful and secure sponsorship endeavor.

Contact Tadeo & Silva Law for All Your Immigration Needs

Sponsoring an immigrant comes with significant responsibilities and risks that require a comprehensive understanding of immigration laws. At Tadeo & Silva Law, we’re here to guide you through every step of this complex process. Here’s how we can assist you:

  1. Family-Based Immigration: Securing a green card for family members is a priority for many of our clients. We handle the intricacies involved in family petitions and adjustment of status, ensuring that your loved ones can live legally in the United States.
  2. Naturalization: If you’re seeking U.S. citizenship, we provide personalized support throughout the naturalization process. Our goal is to help you achieve this milestone with confidence and clarity.
  3. Removal of Conditions: For those who have conditional permanent residence, we assist in removing these conditions to solidify your status as a permanent resident without limitations.
  4. Deportation Defense: Facing potential deportation is a distressing experience. We use our robust legal skills to defend your rights and strive for a favorable outcome.
  5. Hardship Waivers: We understand that life presents unique challenges. Our firm is dedicated to preparing hardship waiver applications that reflect your individual circumstances.

We prioritize family unity and work tirelessly to help relatives resolve their immigration status. With our hands-on approach to immigration attorneys, we assess the specific risks associated with your case and provide informed guidance. For trusted legal assistance in these matters:

Boldly reach out to us at Tadeo & Silva Law. Our passionate team is committed to navigating the complexities of immigration law on your behalf. Let’s discuss how we can support your immigration journey.

Contact us and take the first step towards achieving your immigration goals with a dedicated partner by your side.

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