What a Joint Sponsor for a Green Card Application Should Know
Updated on 10/26/2023
When someone applies for a family-based green card, or for certain other immigration categories, they will need someone to financially vouch for them. Green card applicants need a sponsor, often a spouse or other close relative who filed a Form I-130 or I-129F petition for them, to complete a Form I-864 affidavit of support. If an I-864 original sponsor does not have enough earnings or assets to qualify as a solo sponsor, a joint sponsor or called co-sponsor will be necessary. Before volunteering to be a joint sponsor, you should gather information so that you are fully aware of their obligations.
1. When is a joint sponsor needed?
An I-864 joint sponsor may become necessary when a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident petitioner files an affidavit of support, but finds that their earnings or assets do not sufficiently exceed the poverty guidelines.
A joint sponsor signs a legally binding contract with the United States government in which they pledge that they will take responsibility for financially supporting the intending immigrant, along with the primary affidavit of support sponsor, as necessary.
2. Who can be a joint sponsor?
Only a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder) who is at least 18 years of age and domiciles in the U.S. can be a joint sponsor. In addition, to qualify as a joint sponsor, an individual needs to be able to show that their salary or expendable assets are at least 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. They cannot just pool their annual earnings with other sponsors if any. Check our article Income or Asset Requirements for I-864 Affidavit of Support to determine whether a joint sponsor’s income or assets meet the sponsorship requirement.
Generally, a joint sponsor is someone who has a relationship with the green card applicant. This is likely, because the joint sponsor becomes the financial backup for the green card recipient. Nevertheless, it is fine to be a joint sponsor even if she or he doesn’t have solid relationship with the green card applicant.
Not sure if you are eligible to be an I-864 sponsor or joint sponsor? Schedule a consultation with a skilled immigration attorney at an affordable price!
3. What are the obligations of a joint sponsor?
The obligations of a joint sponsor are the same as that of any I-864 affidavit of support sponsor, including:
Repayment of Public Charge Benefits
An I-864 joint sponsor is legally liable for paying back any public benefits, such as welfare and SNAP that are received by the sponsored immigrant. If the joint sponsor does not repay the cost, the government can sue the sponsor and obtain a court order for repayment.
Reporting a Change of Address
The USCIS must have the current address of the joint sponsor throughout the period that they are a financially responsible party to the beneficiary named on the Form I-864 affidavit of support. Those who fail to let the USCIS know that they have relocated could be subject to civil penalties.
4. Can a joint sponsor withdraw their support?
A person should think carefully before agreeing to serve as joint sponsor, as their sponsorship obligations will begin as soon as the green card application gets approved by the USCIS or the intending immigrant enters the U.S. with an immigrant visa. In other words, if a joint sponsor would like to withdraw their support, he or she must notify USCIS or NVC in writing before the sponsored immigrant becomes a lawful permanent resident. As long as the sponsored immigrant becomes a lawful permanent resident, a joint sponsor cannot withdraw their support, and even a divorce does not release their sponsorship obligations.
5. When will the obligations of a joint sponsor end?
The period of joint sponsorship ends when one of the following events occurs:
In circumstances where someone has sponsored an intending immigrant who is subject to removal that joint sponsor would be relieved of their duties once the alien receives a new grant of permanent residency with a new I-864 affidavit of support if required.
6. How to become a joint sponsor?
If a green card applicant finds that they need a joint sponsor, they should ask that person to complete a USCIS Form I-864, Affidavit of Support.
Evidence that should be submitted with the Form I-864 includes copies of proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency, most recent federal tax return, along with most recent W-2 or 1099 (if any) of the joint sponsor. Most recent two of pay stubs joint sponsor and a letter of sponsorship statement to briefly describe the relationship between the joint sponsor and the green card applicant are also excellent forms of compelling evidence. These papers support the joint sponsor’s claim that they will be able to financially support the green card applicant, if necessary, so that they will not become subject to the public charge by accepting government aid.
7. What is the difference between a joint sponsor and a substitute sponsor?
A joint sponsor and a substitute sponsor are not the same thing. As stated above, a joint sponsor is only necessary if the original I-864 sponsor does not meet the required income or assets threshold.
By way of difference, a substitute sponsor steps in if the original signer of the Form I-864 has passed away. Unfortunately, a substitute sponsor cannot just rely on the deceased sponsor’s I-864 form and evidence. They will need to submit their own Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, and their own accompanying evidence of financial stability.
The joint sponsor and the substitute sponsor are both subject to the same obligations under the law. Thus, they would only have their I-864 form approved if they earn 125% above the federal poverty guidelines or have qualifying expendable assets.
Regardless of the type of sponsor you need to become, it is prudent to educate yourself about your obligations before signing the I-864 form and entering into this legally binding financial commitment.
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