DHS proposes tougher rules for sponsors

IMMIGRATION CORNER - Michael J. Gurfinkel (The Philippine Star) - October 4, 2020 - 12:00am

On Oct. 1, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it will propose new rules making “it easier to hold immigrant sponsors accountable for failing to meet the obligations of contracts they sign with the federal government.” In other words, if a person signs an affidavit of support (Form I-864), DHS wants to make sure the sponsor can and will ensure that the alien does not receive or rely on public assistance. If they do, DHS wants the sponsor to reimburse the federal government.

By law, petitioners of family petitions (and employment-based petitions where the employer is related to the alien) must submit an affidavit of support, which is basically a contract between the petitioner and US government that the petitioner will ensure the sponsored alien will not receive certain public benefits. DHS does not want a situation where, as soon as a person gets a green card, they immediately apply for welfare, food stamps and every other possible “free” benefit available. Although there are already rules and regulations in place, DHS is proposing the following:

• Sponsors on affidavits of support must provide credit reports, credit scores, certified copies of income tax returns for the past three years and bank account information to demonstrate they can maintain the required income for an affidavit of support.

• If a sponsor has received any means-tested public benefits within the last 36 months of submitting an affidavit of support, or defaulted on previous obligations to support another immigrant, they must have a joint sponsor who received no such public benefits during that time. In other words, if an elderly petitioner received certain public benefits within the past three years, they would need a co-sponsor/joint sponsor for the affidavit of support.

• USCIS could now provide a copy of the affidavit of support to other benefit-granting governmental agencies without being served with a subpoena, so that the agency may commence collection efforts against the sponsor.

There are other proposed changes in evaluating the sponsor, along with new public charge rules evaluating the alien and whether it is likely the alien will ever depend on certain public benefits, even if there is a sufficient affidavit of support.

With these ever-changing rules, which are getting tougher and tougher, people should seek the advice and assistance of an attorney to fully evaluate their case, determine eligibility and help properly complete the forms. It could be that there will be many denials based on public charge grounds.

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