A very common problem that sponsors run into during the immigration process for family members is the unexpected loss of a job. This can often happen after an application has been filed but before the beneficiary is scheduled for an interview, either at the US consulate abroad or here in the United States if an adjustment of status application has been filed. Unfortunately, if this financial issue is not properly addressed, the petitioner’s fitness as a sponsor can be called into question, potentially jeopardizing the immigration application.
When a US Citizen or Lawful permanent resident sponsors a family member, he/she must demonstrate that the sponsored immigrant will not be a public charge. As part of the required evidence, the petitioner must execute Form I-864, which is technically a contract between the sponsor and the federal government that the sponsor 1) has sufficient assets and/or income to maintain the intending immigrant at 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline; and 2) that he or she is ready to reimburse the government in the event that the immigrant receives a designated federal, state or local means-tested public benefit. Importantly, when the contract is signed and executed, the sponsor is attesting to the information up and through the beneficiary’s interview.
Therefore, the loss of employment can constitute a material change of circumstances that can potentially affect the validity of the Affidavit of Support—which must be deemed satisfactory by an adjudicating officer in order for an immigrant visa/adjustment of status to be granted. Unfortunately, due to the number of different scenarios, there is no one solution. Ameliorating or curing the financial issue will depend on the particular circumstances of the individual and his/his household. However, alternatives to consider (in the event that the sponsor is not able secure new employment with commensurate income before the interview) include the following:
- The use of assets to meet the required 125% of the federal poverty guideline level threshold
- The use of a household member joint sponsor to help meet the requirements (the household member would execute the I-864A)
- The use of a Joint Sponsor who is financially qualified and willing to undertake the same financial obligations incurred by the Affidavit of Support (the Joint Sponsor would have to execute his/her own independent I-864)
- The use of Intending Immigrant’s income, under certain circumstances
It is also important to be aware that the public charge issue is not limited to the I-864 and the sponsor’s financial health. As of this writing, the I-944 is still being required by USCIS. The I-944 is the Declaration of Self-Sufficiency where the intending immigrant must also show that he/she will not pose a public charge—regardless of whether the US Citizen/Lawful Permanent Resident Sponsor meets the I-864 requirements. (In the consular context, the intending immigrant may be asked to execute the DS-5540, which similarly addresses the self-sufficiency of the visa applicant.)
If anything is to be gleaned from this article, it is that the financial aspect of the immigration case is just as important as proving the bona-fides of the familial relationship. In this era of heightened scrutiny, green card applicants are increasingly experiencing more snags over Public Charge matters than any other issue.
The above is general information only. It is not specific legal advice nor intended to create an attorney client relationship. If you need advice, please consult with an attorney.