Petitioning for family members to immigrate to the United States is a lengthy process. It is likely that a decade or more shall pass before you receive a notice from the NVC (National Visa Center) that your case is ready to be processed. Even at this point, you will still have a year or more before your family member's interview. This allows time for you to fill out the necessary forms and gather supporting evidence to verify the information provided. Of all of these forms, none is more important than form I-864, the Affidavit Of Support (AOS).
What is the purpose of the Affidavit Of Support (AOS)?
The AOS provides a legally binding sponsorship for your immigrating family member. This ensures that the family member does not become a public charge when immigrating to the Unites States.
A public charge is an individual who relies on the government for all or partial financial support and other government "means-tested" benefits. A means-tested government benefit is based on the applicant's income, and includes:
- Medicaid (Free health care)
- Food Stamps
- Cash benefits
- State health care programs for children
- SSI (Social Security income who those not qualified for regular payments)
Who must file the Affidavit Of Support?
Any adult who is a legal United States resident and has a domicile in the U.S. may file an AOS for an immigrant. It is not easy for the original petitioner or a family member to agree to support an immigrant if they cannot support themselves. Although it is customary for the petitioner to file the AOS, financial difficulties may force the petitioner to rely on another family member or friend to sponsor their immigrating family member. The sponsor who files the AOS must earn 125% of the current poverty level income, or provide proof of assets that will be available to support their family member if necessary.
What are the risks involved in sponsoring an immigrant family member?
If you sign an AOS for a family member, you must be sure that you can become self-supporting or that you can meet all of their needs for at least 10 years if they remain a permanent resident. If they become a United States Citizen, your responsibility is absolved, but they must wait at least five years before becoming a citizen.
If your sponsored family member receives any means-tested government benefits, even without your knowledge or consent, you will be required to repay the government. Your savings, home, and any other assets can be seized to repay any benefits rendered.
Before signing the AOS, you must consider whether your circumstances, or those of your family member, have changed in the decade or more since filing the original petition.
You should also determine the ability of your family member to become financially self-sufficient, especially if an entire family or multiple family members are immigrating at the same time.
Consult with an immigration attorney like Tesoroni & Leroy if you have doubts or issues regarding the voluminous supporting documentation and the AOS itself. Your future may depend upon full awareness of your responsibilitiesShare