Sponsor Liability FAQs

What is a sponsor?

A sponsor is a person who helped an immigrant become a lawful permanent resident (LPR or “green card holder”) by signing a document called an “affidavit of support.” Most sponsors are family members.

What is an affidavit of support?

An affidavit of support is a contract signed by sponsors to show that the immigrant they are sponsoring is not likely to become a “public charge.” The contract explains that a sponsor’s income can be counted as income available to the immigrant if the immigrant seeks certain government services. Through the affidavit of support, a sponsor also agrees to repay the government if the sponsored immigrant uses certain benefits, although in practice the government rarely has pursued reimbursement.

Are sponsors responsible for benefits used by the immigrant’s U.S. citizen children?

No. Sponsors are not responsible for benefits used by the sponsored immigrant’s citizen children or by any other “non-sponsored” family members.

How long is a sponsor obligated to provide support to an immigrant?

A sponsor’s responsibility begins when the sponsored immigrant becomes a lawful permanent resident (gets a green card) and ends when the immigrant: becomes a U.S. citizen, leaves the U.S. permanently, dies, or has credit for 40 quarters (10 years) of work in the U.S.  Immigrants can get credit for their parents’ or spouse’s quarters of work, in addition to their own.

Does a sponsor’s income count when the immigrant applies for public benefits?

Sometimes. Some portion of a sponsor’s income and resources may be considered, or “deemed” to be available to the sponsored immigrant when he or she applies for certain public benefits, such as SNAP/food stamps, TANF, SSI and sometimes Medicaid/CHIP.  Recent guidance told states that they will need to deem sponsors’ income in Medicaid and CHIP (with some exceptions), but it will take time for most states to create a process to do this.

Are there exceptions to the deeming rules?

Exceptions to the deeming rules may apply depending on the benefit program and the state you live in. Children are not subject to deeming when applying for SNAP (food stamps). Sponsored immigrants who would become hungry or homeless without assistance can be exempt from deeming for at least 12 months. SNAP and SSI have specific rules for making this determination. Sponsored immigrants or their children who are survivors of abuse or cruelty by a spouse, parent, or member of the spouse’s or parent’s family can also be exempt from deeming for at least 12 months. In states that choose to provide Medicaid and CHIP to lawfully residing children and/or pregnant women without a five-year waiting period, such as Washington, a sponsor’s income is not deemed to be available to them when they apply for those programs. Immigrants can also get emergency Medicaid without consideration of their sponsor’s income.

 

Special thanks to opens in a new windowProtecting Immigrant Families for these answers.

 

 


Reviewed on 8/27/2020