Sponsoring an immigrant, be it your friend or family member, can be a boon for you. After all, having your loved ones close by in a foreign land makes every difficult step reasonably smooth and prosperous.
The U.S. immigration laws are a bit critical to comprehend as it requires several forms to be submitted, eventually making family-based green cards difficult to obtain.
Visa sponsorship is the technical term that refers to the process in which a U.S. organization or an individual confirms to sponsor or support a foreign national’s visa or green card application by obliging to ensure that the sponsored individual complies with the U.S. immigration laws and regulations. There are several types of visa sponsorship such as employment-based visa sponsorship, family-based visa sponsorship, etc.
Here in this article, you’ll be guided through the crucial process of sponsoring an immigrant friend and family member for U.S. immigration.
Table of contents
To become an eligible sponsor
you must be a US citizen or green-card holder
you must be at least 18 years of age
you must reside in the US or its territories.
you must meet or exceed the minimum income requirements.
you must submit an “Affidavit of Support” that validates your financial stability and commitment to support the immigrant.
attach tax records, employment verification proof and other detailed financial background checks as evidence.
Note: It’ll be a noble act if you agree to sponsor an immigrant, but remember that it’s a serious liability which you can’t afford to overlook.
Categories of people eligible for family immigrant visas
There are basically two types of family-based immigrant visas:
Immediate relative visas
It pertains to your close relatives such as spouses, unmarried children (below 21 years of age), or parents. The number of visas under this category is limitless. These visas include:
IR1 and CR1 for spouses
IR2 for children
IR5 for parents
Family preference visas
Unlike the previous one, the number of visas under this category is limited. These are as follows:
Other relatives of a U.S. citizen, such as eligible children or siblings:
F1 visas unmarried children who are 21 years of age or older
F3 visas for married children
F4 visas for siblings
The spouse and unmarried children of legal permanent residents (Green Card holders):
F2A visas for spouses and unmarried children below age 21
F2B visas for unmarried children who are 21 years of age or older
Requirements for Sponsoring Immigrants
Here’s the detailed analysis of the criteria that you must fulfil to become a potential sponsor for a foreign citizen eager to relocate to the United States:
U.S. Citizenship or Legal Permanent Residency: Sponsoring an immigrant is possible only if the sponsor is a U.S. citizen or holds a green card. Generally, visa holders claim no right to sponsor an immigrant for a green card.
Criterion of Age: Minimum of 18 years of age is required for a sponsor to file the sponsorship application- Form I-130 for family-based green cards or equivalent forms pertaining to other visa types.
Domicile proof: The sponsor must submit a list of evidence such as such as utility bills, a lease agreement, or a mortgage contract showing your U.S. residence, that can validate his/her domicile in the U.S.
Financial Stability: Essentially, the sponsor must submit proofs such as Affidavit of Support or Form I-864 along with income record, tax records, employment verification proof and other detailed financial background checks and must be at least 125% above the federal poverty guidelines for their household size.
Form Filing: Depending on the types of visas, different forms are available for the sponsor to duly fill out and submit. Specifically, for family-based visas, filing Form I-140, Petition for Alien Relative is mandatory.
Fee Payment: Different types of visas demand varied application or petition charges and the sponsor is obliged to take care of that.
Ongoing Responsibility: The accountability of ensuring smooth stay of the immigrant lies on the shoulders of the sponsor. As long as the immigrant stays or works in the U.S. or becomes a U.S. citizen the sponsor is liable to guarantee the immigrant’s financial stability.
How to File Form I-864
Here’s a step-by-step guide to file Form I-864. Just a basic few information about:
the immigrant like name, date of birth, address, country of citizenship, alien registration number (if any) and phone number (if any).
Your name, address, date of birth, citizenship, country of birth, and social security number.
your occupation or your employer (if you’re self-employed, say so).
your current annual income.
the income you are using from any other person who you counted in your household size.
the total income, as reported in your federal income tax returns, for the last three years (attach your federal tax return for the most recent tax year).
your savings and checking accounts, the net cash value of your real estate holdings, and the value of all stocks, bonds, and certificates of deposit, if your income doesn’t exceed 125 % of the federal poverty guidelines, and you want the government to look at your assets.
Finally, you sign on the contract asserting your liability the said immigrant’s legal sponsor. Moreover, you certify to inform the USCIS about any change of address within 30 days.
Situations Where You Can Sponsor an Immigrant
Whatever be the scenario, the sponsor must file Affidavit of Support, Form I-864. Based on your scenario, you might end up filing Form I-864 EZ or Form I-864A. Depending on the information you provide, the USCIS qualifies you as a sponsor. Talking about the scenarios, a few of them are listed below:
Sponsors for family-based immigration applications
Sponsors for fiancé or spouse visa applications
Sponsors for employment-based application (the process varies based on various factors); and
Sponsors for other types of immigration scenarios
How to Become a Sponsor for an Immigrant Friend
If you’re the immigrant’s employer, relative of fiancé, you can sponsor an immigrant’s visa or green card application. The immigration laws of the U.S. don’t permit the sponsor to support a friend directly. However, the sponsor can still support a friend in two possible ways:
Financially Sponsor him/her
The U.S. laws grant an entry to an immigrant if he/she has a sponsor disguised as a financial assistance in the territory. Therefore, a friend can become a financial sponsor, having no other official relationship with you other than friendship to justify your petition. In this case, the immigrant must have someone else to claim sponsorship of the visa or green card application and the friend will then act as the financial sponsor by filing an Affidavit of Support or Form I-864.
To be a financial sponsor, you must:
Be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
Earn at least 125 percent of the federal poverty level. Failing to exceed this income percentage will result in the U.S. government overseeing your assets such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, and other property to test your sponsorship eligibility. Other family members can add their income level to yours but if the results is still unfavourable, another friend can become a joint sponsor.
In case, you work as a military staff and already sponsoring your spouse or children, your income must be 100 percent of the federal poverty level.
You must support the immigrant until he/she:
Becomes a U.S. citizen
Has worked incessantly for 40 quarters of service under the social security act
Leaves the U.S. or discards the status as a lawful permanent resident of the U.S.
Is subject to removal from the U.S., but earns a new grant of adjustment of status because someone else has filed a new affidavit of support.
Acting as his/her legal representative before the USCIS
To represent others in legal proceedings, the U.S. generally allows a licensed attorney. However, immigration is one such case where the U.S. immigration laws make an exception and permits a non-lawyer to represent the immigrant in the immigration proceedings. In this case, nevertheless, your role will be similar to that of a normal attorney. 8 C.F.R. § 292.1 consists a list of persons who’re eligible to represent people before USCIS. This section says that you may represent a “personal friend” before the USCIS, if
you appear on an individual case basis,
you do not charge your friend for representation, and
The Department of Homeland Security official, before whom you’re appearing, permits you to represent your friend.
How much does sponsoring an immigrant cost?
It’s strange but true that there’re no costs for sponsoring an immigrant to the United States.
Filing Form I-864 is free of cost too. Nevertheless, few sponsors pay for the complete immigration process that might be costly and adds from $1000 to $2000.
Which Immigrants Do Not Need Sponsoring
There are few types of immigrants that don’t need sponsorship. You can come into the category if you are an immigrant who:
has earned or can credit 40 qualifying quarters of work in the U.S.;
has an approved Form I-360 as a self-petitioning widow or widower. The form is also known as the Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant.
has an approved I-360 as a battered spouse or a child; or
is an orphan adopted abroad by U.S. citizens.
Your Liability as a Sponsor
We advise you to not take Form I-864 so light as it’s a legally enforceable contract between the sponsor, the immigrant, and the U.S. government. You’re highly obliged after becoming a sponsor. As a few instances:
The government can sue the sponsor to collect any funds as reimbursement for any public benefits given to the immigrant.
The immigrant can sue the sponsor to collect funds to allow their income to equate to 125% above the poverty level.
There’re cases when bankruptcy cannot be taken as an excuse to shed off the financial responsibility of the immigrant.
In marriage-based cases, the sponsor remains legally responsible for their immigrant partner even after a divorce. This can cause serious issues when the spouse willingly refuses to look for job. Sponsors, in such cases, can produce a separate contract with their spouses to clarify the issue of intentionally avoiding employment.