A Valuable Asset For Green Card Holders Who Separate or Divorce – USCIS Form I-864

[Also available on LinkedIn.]

Most foreign nationals who immigrate to the US through marriage do so through a sponsor who signs a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support.  For these sponsored immigrants, the signed form I-864 can be a valuable asset.

When signed, the I-864 becomes a binding contract that entitles the sponsored immigrant to financial support from their sponsor, who is typically their spouse. To be more specific, the form I-864 gives the sponsored immigrant the right to receive up to $1,342 in monthly payments from their immigration sponsor spouse.

This financial obligation helps ensure that new immigrants are able to adjust to a new life, are supported in the event that they cannot support themselves and don’t become reliant on public support.

This right to financial support begins the moment the sponsored immigrant becomes a lawful US resident.  And it does not end until certain specifically defined events occur. This includes: (1) citizenship; (2) 40 quarters of work credit; (3) a permanent departure from the US; (4) deportation and a new sponsor; or (5) death.  No other event can end the financial obligation.  Importantly, divorce or separation DOES NOT end the financial obligations.  In other words, the financial obligations continue even if the sponsored immigrant and their sponsor are separated or live apart.

If the sponsored immigrant does not earn at least $1,342 per month, the sponsor is responsible to make up the difference.  So if a sponsored immigrant is unemployed or unable to earn any money, she/he is entitled to the entire $1,342 per month.

Unfortunately, many spousal sponsors do not honor their financial obligations after a break up. If that occurs, sponsored immigrants are permitted to sue their sponsors in federal court to collect what they are owed. The form I-864 states this explicitly and the sponsor, when signing the form, agrees to be sued in court if she/he fails to make such payments.

In addition to getting back pay for the money they never got, sponsored immigrants can also offset the cost of filing the lawsuit, including the cost of hiring a lawyer.  That is because the same law that created the form I-864 also includes a right to recover attorneys’ fees.  As a result, sponsored immigrants can hire lawyers to handle these cases on contingency basis, meaning they are not required to pay any upfront fees or costs. The lawyers only get paid if the lawsuit is successful.

By bringing an action to recover their financial support, sponsored immigrants can – without paying any upfront costs – get back on their feet and get their American dream moving in the right direction again.

The form I-864 is thus a valuable asset and can help sponsored immigrants when they need it the most.