The I-864, Affidavit of Support, is a critical document that enables a US citizen or Permanent Resident to “sponsor” a family member (such as a spouse, fiancé or child) to immigrate to the US. When signed, the I-864 legally requires the sponsor to financially support the beneficiary immigrant or to pay the intended immigrant at least $1,342 per month if the immigrant does not earn that amount (the actual amounts vary based on year, geography and personal circumstances).
In the case of a divorced or separated couple, where the sponsor spouse financially abandons the immigrant spouse, the financial obligations imposed by the I-864 become very important. The intended immigrant can hire an attorney – usually with no upfront costs – and sue the sponsor to obtain that financial support. The first step in doing so is obtaining a copy of the Form I-864 that the sponsor signed. This can sometimes be tricky, especially since the immigrant spouse does not have to sign the I-864 and may not have it. But there are ways to obtain it if that is the case.
An experienced attorney should be able to get the signed Form I-864. However, these methods of getting the signed I-864 can be performed by anyone. There are essentially two simple methods.
If the initial immigration application papers were reviewed or handled by an immigration lawyer, the first place to start is there. They usually have copies of everything that was submitted. Ask the lawyer who oversaw the initial application for a copy. In some instances, the lawyer may refuse or stall, but being persistent usually works. They owe you a copy of your file.
If no lawyer was used and the sponsor does not have a copy of the signed form (or requesting it from the sponsor is not possible), there is another method that can be used – a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Homeland Security for the immigrant’s “Alien File” or “A-file.” This is the collection of documents that the DHS maintains for foreign-born individuals who have arrived in the US as immigrants or nonimmigrants. The A-file will include the signed I-864 and can be obtained by completing and submitting a Form G-639. In the rare event that the DHS will not produce the signed Form I-864 unless the sponsor formally makes or joins in that FOIA request, a judge can compel the sponsor to do so.
Once the signed Form I-864 is obtained and presented, a major hurdle in putting together a strong case has been cleared.