I-864 Enforcement: Prenups Cannot Stop a Green Card Holder From Getting Financial Support From Their Sponsor

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Lilly was very excited to marry Phillip and move to America. Phillip was going to sponsor her immigration to the US and Lilly would start a new life. Prior to getting married, Lilly was surprised when Phillip demanded she sign a prenuptial agreement. As part of that agreement, Lilly had to give up and waive all of her rights with regards to money, alimony or spousal support. She wasn’t comfortable with this, but signed anyway because she wanted to marry Phillip and come to America.

A few years later, Lilly has a green card and lives in the US, but things are going poorly with Phillip. He’s abusive and difficult to live with. Lilly wants out, but feels trapped. Her English is poor and she doesn’t have a job or many marketable skills. Lilly knows that if she applies for many public benefits, Phillip’s income will be deemed to her and she will be disqualified. She also signed the prenup and thinks she gave up any rights she might have to money and support. She wants to leave, but is worried she will not be able to support herself long enough to improve her English and learn some job skills. So she copes with the abuse.

Lilly finds out from a friend that green card holders can force their sponsor spouses to financially support them based on the I-864 affidavit of support their spouses signed when they first immigrated to the US. If she chose to enforce it, Lilly would be entitled to about $1,342 per month for every month her husband did not support her. She could also get monthly payments going forward.

At first, Lilly was excited as she saw this as her way out of living with Phillip without resorting to a shelter. Then, she remembered the prenup and worried she had no money to hire a lawyer. After consulting a lawyer knowledgeable on I-864 enforcement litigation, she learned that federal courts have consistently decided that prenups are not enforceable with regards to waiving I-864 rights. In other words, immigrants can’t give up their I-864 financial rights in a prenup. She also found out that some lawyers experienced in this area of law will take her case on a contingency basis, meaning she would not have to pay any legal fees up front and no money at all if the case is not successful.

This changed everything. Lilly already knew there were legal ways to keep her green card and become a citizen without her husband’s support. Now she knows she had a legal path to obtain financial support as well. This information gave Lilly the confidence she needed to finally leave her abusive situation and start a new and more promising life in America.