Obligation of Resident Alien’s Sponsor/Spouse

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A sponsor of a resident alien is someone who agrees to assist the resident alien with becoming a lawful permanent resident in the United States (i.e., someone with a green card). The sponsor substantiates their support by signing an “affidavit of support.” You may be asking yourself, “What exactly is an affidavit of support?” Here is the answer – an affidavit of support is a legally-binding contract signed by the sponsor validating the fact that the green card applicant is unlikely to become a “public charge.” Basically, this means the sponsor is telling the government that the resident alien is not at risk of becoming completely dependent upon government assistance if they remain in the United States.

There are two primary types of affidavits related to this process – the “enforceable” affidavit of support and the “non-enforceable” affidavit of support. The “enforceable” affidavit of support was issued on December 19, 1997, and is a binding contract by the sponsor obligating them to support the resident alien and potentially be on the proverbial hook to repay certain benefits received by the resident alien if they were to become a public charge. In contrast, the “non-enforceable” affidavit of support was issued prior to December 19, 1997, yet continues to be used by some resident aliens during their immigration application process.

There are three primary requirements to qualify as a sponsor:

  1. The sponsor must be a U.S. citizen, a lawful permanent resident
  2. The sponsor must be at least 18 years old
  3. The sponsor must reside in the U.S.
  4. The sponsor must meet specific income guidelines

By signing the affidavit of support, a sponsor also validates that they earn a sufficient amount of income to support the resident alien during the pendency of their immigration application being processed. Specifically, the sponsor is guaranteeing to the federal government that their income is at, or higher than, 125 percent of the federal poverty line.

Sponsorship Obligations

It is important to have a full understanding of the potential ramifications associated with signing an affidavit of support, particularly the enforceable affidavit. For example, if you agree to sign the enforceable affidavit, you agree to enter into an enforceable contract with the United States government that does not end until one of the following occurs:

  • The resident alien becomes a full-fledged citizen of the United States
  • The resident alien can supply documentation reflecting ten years of job earnings
  • The resident alien’s departure from the U.S.
  • The resident alien passes away.

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Consequences of Failing to Fulfill Sponsorship Obligations Conclusion

There are potentially serious legal consequences if a sponsor fails to meet the specific sponsorship obligations. For example, a sponsor could be subject to legal action by the resident alien if the sponsor fails to provide sufficient financial support.

In addition, as mentioned earlier, a sponsor could be asked to pay back certain benefits paid by the federal government to the resident alien, including mean-tested public benefits such as:

  • Medicaid
  • Food stamps
  • Supplemental Security Income

The potential ramifications of agreeing to serve as a sponsor of a resident alien are why it makes sense to speak to an experienced and knowledgeable California immigration lawyer.


In summation, here are some key takeaways about the obligations of a resident alien sponsor/spouse:

  • Agreeing to sponsor a resident alien is generally a long-term commitment that does not cease until the resident alien becomes a U.S. citizen, can produce 10 years worth of earnings, departs the U.S., or passes away.
  • To qualify to become a sponsor, you need to be at least 18 years of age, live in the U.S., be a U.S. citizen, and earn a sufficient income to support the resident alien.
  • The long-term implications associated with being a sponsor of a resident alien are serious and warrant a discussion with an attorney.

Have Questions? Contact Jeremy Castro Today

If you have questions about sponsoring a resident alien, contact Castro Law Offices, P.C. today to schedule a confidential consultation.

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