• Kyle Persaud

How to Become a Sponsor for an Immigrant Friend

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

You have a friend who wants to come to the U.S., and you wonder: Can you help him?

If you are not a relative or fiancé(e) of the person, you can’t sponsor his visa or green card application. Click here to see what relatives can sponsor a person to enter the U.S.; click here to see how to petition for a fiancé(e).

But there are still ways you can help a friend who is not a relative or a fiancé(e):

You may sponsor an immigrant friend in two ways:

1. By financially sponsoring your friend

2. By acting as your friend’s legal representative before USCIS

How to Sponsor an Immigrant Friend: Two Ways

1. Financially sponsor him

If a person seeks to enter the U.S. through a family member, the person entering the U.S. must have a financial sponsor. U.S. law requires a financial sponsor so that non-citizens in the U.S. won’t become public charges, dependent on government assistance for financial support.

You don’t have to be a relative to be someone’s financial sponsor. So, a friend can become a financial sponsor.

To become a financial sponsor, you must file an I-864, or an Affidavit of Support. In this affidavit, you promise to support the non-citizen once the non-citizen enters the U.S.

To be a financial sponsor, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. (To find out more about what a lawful permanent resident is, click here.)

  • Have an income that is at least 125 percent of the federal poverty level (For information on the federal poverty level, click here.) If your income is not this high, the government may look at certain assets, such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, and other property; the government may consider these assets in determining whether you are financially qualified to be a sponsor. If you do not meet the financial qualifications, other family members may add their income to your income level, if these other family members sign a contract on Form I-864. If, even after other family members add their income to yours, your income is still not high enough, another person must complete a separate affidavit as a joint sponsor.

For a brief overview of the process of becoming a financial sponsor, read the USCIS’ fact sheet here.

To see a printable version of Form I-864, as well as instructions for filling out this form, click here.

2. By acting as your friend’s legal representative before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)

Normally, in the U.S., you have to be a licensed attorney to represent others in legal proceedings. Immigration is one of the few exceptions to this rule; U.S. immigration law allows non-lawyers to represent non-citizens in immigration proceedings. If you do represent your friend in this manner, your role is similar to that of a lawyer.

8 C.F.R. § 292.1 contains a list of persons who may represent people before USCIS. This section says that you may represent a “personal friend” before the USCIS, if

  • you appear on an individual case basis,

  • you do not charge your friend for representation, and

  • The Department of Homeland Security official, before whom you are appearing, allows you to represent your friend.

Because many people seeking to enter the U.S. can’t afford to pay a lawyer to represent them, representing your friend before USCIS may be a big help to them.