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Immigrants who are sponsored by a spouse may be entitled to financial support based on the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. This financial support obligation persists even in the case of a separation or divorce. There are three essential document types needed to evaluate a beneficiary spouse’s ability to compel that obligation.
Some background first. The Form I-864 enables a US citizen or Permanent Resident to “sponsor” a family member to immigrate to the US and legally requires the sponsor to financially support or pay the beneficiary immigrant at least $1,342 per month if the immigrant does not earn that amount (based on current guidelines).
When a couple separates or divorces, and the sponsor spouse refuses to financially support the immigrant spouse, the financial obligations imposed by the I-864 become very important and strict. The immigrant spouse can hire an attorney – usually with no upfront costs – and sue their sponsor to obtain that financial support. To prevail, however, requires evidence. Fortunately, there are only three essential types of documents that any immigrant needs to compel their ex to pay these amounts.
First, you need the Form I-864 that the sponsor signed. Unless you have the document in your personal files, some effort may be required to get it. If a lawyer handled your immigration process, they will typically have a copy that you can easily request. Most lawyers will comply with this request (eventually). The signed Form I-864 is also part of every immigrant’s Alien File or A-File, which is the collection of documents that the government maintains for foreign-born individuals who have arrived in the US as immigrants or nonimmigrants. Individuals can get their A-file by requesting it from the Department of Homeland Security through a FOIA request. The rest of your immigration file is important, but the I-864 is the most important piece.
Second, you need a recent Social Security Statement. This will document how much money and work credits you have earned – factors critical in determining if or how much your ex is obligated to pay. This document can be obtained electronically from the Social Security Administration’s statement portal, accessible here: https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/statement.html
Third, and finally, you will need any documents related to your divorce, such as any prenups, postnuptial agreements, divorce decrees/agreements, separation or alimony agreements, etc. Your lawyer will need to review these to make sure that they do not interfere with your right to obtain financial support under the Form I-864.
Depending on the specifics of a particular situation, more documents may be required. However, these three categories are the essentials. With these documents in hand along with the answers to some basic qualifying questions, your lawyer can assess whether you have a claim for support, how much that claim is worth, and the best path forward to get what you are owed.