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What is an affidavit of support?

U.S. immigration policy prefers immigrants not to become public charges. That is, when individuals enter the country, immigration law typically demands they support themselves without relying on public assistance benefits. 

If you plan to file a family-based immigrant visa petition on behalf of your spouse or another relative, you likely have a legal obligation to submit an affidavit of support. Also knows as Form I-864, the affidavit of support holds you financially responsible for the individual you sponsor for legal permanent residency. 

What legal obligations do you have?

The affidavit of support you execute holds you financially responsible for the sponsored immigrant. This means you must repay the cost of any means-tested public benefits the immigrant receives. These may include Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or other needs-based programs. 

If you fail to repay the means-tested public benefits the sponsored immigrant receives, the government may sue you or otherwise take steps to collect payment. 

When do your legal obligations end?

If you execute an affidavit of support, you likely have an obligation to provide financial support to sponsored immigrant for the foreseeable future. This obligation ends when the immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen or earns 40 quarters of work credit. 

If you have decided to sponsor a fiancé or spouse, you should realize that divorce does not eliminate your support obligations pursuant to the affidavit of support. Consequently, you may have to continue to provide financial support to your ex-spouse after your marriage ends. 

Of course, if the person you sponsor dies, you no longer must comply with the terms of the affidavit of support. The same is true if the individual decides to abandon his or her legal permanent residency and departs the U.S. permanently.