Coming to a better life in America: Vietnamese Immigrants in the United States. Part 2: Obligations of the I-864 Affidavit of Support and Realistic Expectations

Thứ Tư, 08 Tháng Mười 201400:00(Xem: 12701)
Coming to a better life in America: Vietnamese Immigrants in the United States. Part 2: Obligations of the I-864 Affidavit of Support and Realistic Expectations

If you sign an I-864 Affidavit of Support, does “Bao Lanh” mean the same as “Lanh No”? The answer is ”No”. Sponsoring someone is NOT like guaranteeing a debt and an immigrant’s debts of any kind are not the responsibility of the sponsor. Credit card debts, gambling debts and any other kinds of debts or financial obligations that the immigrant incurs are the responsibility of the immigrant, not the sponsor.

What are the responsibilities of an I-864 sponsor? Briefly, the government can require the sponsor to repay the amounts of any means-tested public benefits that are not approved for sponsored immigrants.

Means-Tested Public Benefits that are not approved for immigrants include

· Food stamps
· Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
· Medicaid
· Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
· State Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

If the sponsored immigrant uses federal means-tested public benefits, the sponsor must repay the cost of the benefits. In fact, during the past 25 years, we have not heard of a single case of the government asking for this type of repayment.

What assistance programs are permitted to immigrants covered by an I-864 Affidavit of Support? 

· Emergency Medicaid
· School lunches
· Immunizations and treatment for communicable diseases
· Student assistance to attend colleges and institutions of higher learning
· Some kinds of foster care or adoption assistance
· Job training programs
· Head start
· Short-term, non-cash emergency relief

The primary obligation of the financial sponsor is maintaining support of the immigrants at a level that is 125% above the federal poverty minimum. Except for some cases involving divorce, we have never heard of an immigrant suing his sponsor if that 125% amount was not provided.

When does the sponsor’s I-864 obligation end? The sponsor’s responsibility lasts until the immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen, or has earned 40 work quarters credited toward Social Security (usually about ten years of work), or dies, or permanently leaves the United States.

Divorce does not terminate a sponsor’s obligations under this Form I-864. But, if the sponsor is paying alimony of at least 125% of the minimum, then he would not have to pay any additional support. If here is no alimony but the ex-spouse is working and earning 125% of the minimum income, then the sponsor does not have to pay any additional. If the ex-spouse has a salary of less than the 125%, the sponsor would just have to pay the difference between the lower salary and the 125% minimum.

The only times we have heard of an immigrant suing the sponsor have been in cases of divorce. Of course, sometimes the sponsored alien spouse never intended to enter into a lasting marital relationship, but was merely using the sponsor to gain immigrant status. If the sponsor can show that the alien committed fraud, this is a complete defense to any future liability and perhaps annulment would be possible.

Signing an I-864 is a serious matter and should be done only with full trust in the immigrant's intentions. Even if it is a sham marriage that ends in divorce, the sponsor is still responsible for the I-864 requirements. If he claims he is not financially responsible because he knew it was a sham, then he is liable for heavy fines or imprisonment.

Some immigration practitioners suggest that all immigrants should sign an agreement saying that they would not sue the sponsor for support and would pay back the sponsor if they receive any means-tested public benefits. This would resemble a kind of pre-nuptial agreement. We don’t think that this would be appropriate and it would not be welcomed by the sponsored immigrants because it shows a lack of trust.

However, we do think it would be good to inform the immigrants about what to expect financially after they arrive in the US. Coming to a new country is a challenge and it would help them to understand what obligations the sponsor has and what obligations he does not have.

For example, there are rumors that sponsors have received US government funds in exchange for sponsoring them. Some immigrants, in the confusion and stress of adapting to a new life style, demand the sponsor to pay them from the money the sponsor got from the government, or they demand that the sponsor give them full support indefinitely. They may even leave the sponsor’s home and apply for public benefits.

Throughout the years of the sponsorship process, there are high expectations. Both sponsors and immigrants have been through the frustrating immigration procedures in the US and in Vietnam. There is severe culture shock when immigrants reach their new homeland and expectations are sometimes based on what they have seen on TV and in the social media.

Because of language difficulties, jobs may be difficult to find and there is the temptation to stay at home and rely on the sponsor’s support. Immigrants sometimes overlook the efforts of the sponsor to bring them to the US and they resist the sponsor’s advice about how to successfully integrate into American society.

Fortunately, these negative experiences only occur in a small percentage of cases. We have seen many, many cases of new immigrants adjusting well to America, and leading successful lives.

To avoid unpleasantness in the early stages of immigration, both sides need to have a clear understanding of the relationship between sponsor and immigrants. There needs to be constructive discussion between the sponsor and the immigrants before and after they arrive in the US. In that way, the experience of adjusting to life in America can be rewarding for everyone involved.

Q.1. How often does the US government demand that the sponsors repay means-tested public benefits that immigrants have received, such as food stamps or SSI?
A.1. There have been no reports of the government suing sponsors to recover the cost of such benefits.

Q.2. A widow of an American citizen is in Vietnam and applying for an immigrant visa. Does she need to have someone do an Affidavit of Support for her?
A.2. No, the widow of a US citizen and her minor children do not need an Affidavit of Support.

Q.3. If an immigrant’s salary is less than 125% of the minimum, does the sponsor still have to provide the 125% level of support?
A.3. No, the sponsor just needs to provide support for the difference between the immigrant’s salary and the federal minimum. For example, if the immigrant’s salary is 100% of the minimum, the sponsor would only be liable for an additional 25% of the minimum.

Immigration Support Services - Tham Van Di Tru 

9070 Bolsa Ave., Westminster CA 92683 (714) 890-9933
779 Story Road, Ste. 70, San Jose, CA 95122 (408) 294-3888
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