One of the biggest barriers between aliens who wish to obtain a green card and permanent US residency is the US government declaring them a “public charge.” The definition of a public charge is an individual who is dependent upon means-tested support.

In order to circumnavigate the public charge designation, a hopeful immigrant may require an Affidavit of Support. According to Findlaw, an Affidavit of Support is a contract between the US government (both federal and state), the sponsored alien, and the sponsor.

Who is the sponsor?

In order for an Affidavit of Support to be successful, the sponsor must have a certain set of characteristics. Most commonly, a sponsor will be either a family member who is filing the visa petition on behalf of the alien, or a family member who owns at least 5% or more of a for-profit entity (usually a business) who is petitioning on behalf of the alien.

In addition to the above, the sponsor must be either a US citizen or permanent resident who is at least 18 years old and lives in the United States. The sponsor must have an income level of at least 125% of poverty guidelines set forth by the federal government. In addition, the sponsor must agree to reimburse any entity, either public or private, that may provide public benefits to the alien.

When do these obligations end?

The sponsor of the alien must hold these obligations on behalf of the alien until the alien either becomes a US citizen, leaves the US permanently, has 40 employment quarters, or dies.

It is possible for more than one person to be a sponsor. In the event of joint sponsorship, however, both sponsors are equally responsible for these burdens.