Did a friend or family member ask you to be a “Joint Sponsor” on their immigration case? If so this article will explain what it means to be a joint sponsor, and what you will have to provide.
What is the purpose of a financial sponsor in an immigration application?
U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can ask (petition) the government to allow their family members to become residents. In most cases, the government allows this, but only if all parties are eligible.
The government does not want to give green cards to people who might need government assistance. Since foreigners have not paid into the unemployment, social security, and healthcare systems it would not be fair for American taxpayers to support these people.
That’s why immigrants require a financial sponsor.
This sponsor assures the government that the immigrant will have financial support from other people if they ever need it. The sponsor also signs a contract with the government that says the government can require the sponsor to repay any money used to support the immigration. The document that assures this support is called the “Affidavit of Support.”
The person who is asking (petitioner) the government to allow their family member(s) to get green cards always has to submit an Affidavit of Support.
What does the petitioner have to do to show they can financially support the immigrant?
The petitioner has to show that they make enough money to provide for the family member they are sponsoring. Usually, the petitioner must show he or she makes 125% of the federal poverty minimum for a household of their size.
For example, if the petitioner is sponsoring a spouse and the only people the petitioner is responsible for is he/she and the spouse, the household size is 2. 125% of the federal poverty minimum for a household of 2 is $21,550. That means the petitioner’s income has to be more than $21,550.
The petitioner has to provide the last 3 years of tax history and evidence of current income. If the tax history and income show the petitioner makes more than $21,550, they have met the requirement.
If for any reason, the petitioner does not make the minimum amount, and if they do not have financial assets that are sufficient, then a “Joint Sponsor” can be used.
What is a Joint Sponsor on the Affidavit of Support?
A joint sponsor is someone who “signs on” to the immigration application as a financial sponsor of the immigrant together with the petitioner. The joint sponsor must meet the same requirements as the petitioner.
As a joint sponsor, you will have to show that you have enough income to support your own household plus the immigrant. You also sign a contract with the government that makes you “jointly and severally” liable to the government.
That means that both you and the petitioner a liable together, but that you are also each liable individually to repay the government any money it spends to financially support the immigrant. In other words, if the petitioner cannot repay the government, it will be up to you to pay the whole bill.
Although you would sponsor the immigrant jointly, you have a separate application just for your part.
As a Joint Sponsor, for how long am I liable to the government?
As a joint sponsor, your liability to the government goes away in five different situations. Specifically, if the immigrant…
- becomes a U.S. Citizen
- receives 40 qualifying credits of employment (10 years of continuous employment)
- gives up their green card
- is in removal/deportation
- passes away
It is important to note that divorce between the petitioner and immigrant does NOT eliminate your liability.
I’m worried. Is it safe for me to become a Joint Sponsor?
Many people worry that they are signing on for too much liability. After all, no one wants to be liable to the government if someone else can’t support themselves financially.
At the end of the day your decision will depend on how high is risk that you would actually have to pay the government any money. It is rare that an immigrant needs this financial support. It is also rare that the petitioner would leave you with the whole bill.
Here are some questions to ask yourself, that may help you decide whether or not it is safe for you to “stick your neck out” for this person:
- How well do I know the petitioner? The petitioner is the first person responsible to the immigrant. Will the petitioner ever allow the immigrant to be without financial support? Did the petitioner just have a bad year financially? Is the petitioner a hard worker?
- How well do I know the immigrant? Do you think the immigrant will avoid supporting themselves? Would they would rather be supported by the government than work? Would they be hard workers? Do they have disabilities? Do they have a career or job skills?
Here are some questions you can ask the petitioner and/or the immigrant:
- To the petitioner:
- Do you have a good job?
- Are you able to work?
- Why did you pick me?
- What will you do to make sure the immigrant never needs government benefits?
- To the immigrant:
- What do you want to do for work when you get your green card?
- Have you applied for any jobs? Do you plan to apply for jobs? What kind of jobs?
- Do you plan on becoming a U.S. citizen? When?
- Why did you pick me?
- What will you do to make sure you never need government benefits?
What will I need to do if I agree to be a Joint Sponsor?
We, as the attorneys on the case, will ask you to do the following:
- Complete a questionnaire with some details about you, including your address and social security number
- Provide us with proof of your U.S. citizenship (birth certificate or U.S. passport) or lawful permanent residence (green card)
- Get your Tax Return Transcripts from the IRS website for the last 3 years (click here for information on how to get the right transcript)
- Provide us with proof of your current income, either through 6 months of pay stubs or an employment letter detailing your wage and hours that you work
- If you don’t have a regular income you can use assets like recently-appraised homes, 401k’s, bank statements, investment account statements, etc.
This is very sensitive information, is it safe to give this to you?
Because of the unique nature of this type of application, we are able to represent you as your attorneys on this application.
This means that we owe you the duty of confidentiality. We are not allowed to share any of your private information with anyone unless you give us permission. Of course, you will be giving us permission to share the information with the government. However, we cannot release your details to anyone else.
It is also our practice not to share your affidavit of support and all supporting documents with the petitioner – unless you give us permission. When the whole application is submitted to the government, we share a copy of it with our clients, the petitioner and immigrant. However, before we share the file we redact (black out) all of your sensitive information, including social security number, account balances, tax returns, etc.
What if I have ever have questions?
Our immigration team is available to support you whenever you need it. Your questions will never result in fees being charged to the petitioner. We are here to make sure you understand everything about this process and help you along the way.
OK. I’m ready to sign on as a Joint Sponsor. What’s next?
Now that you are ready to become a joint sponsor, the next step is to complete our questionnaire.
The questionnaire will collect the data we need from you and will give you a place to upload your documents. It’s ok if you can’t finish it all at one time. You can save your place and return to the questionnaire by clicking a link in an email that will be sent to you every time you save your progress.