How to Become a Sponsor for an Immigrant Friend
Updated: Jul 21, 2022
You have a friend who wants to come to the U.S., and you wonder: Can you help him?
Many clients have asked me about sponsoring their friends. Unfortunately, the only way that you can sponsor a person's visa or green card application is if you are the non-citizen's employer, relative, or fiancé(e). The U.S. immigration laws do not allow you to sponsor someone just because they are your friend.
But there are still ways you can help a friend who is not an employee, 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.
However, the person must still have someone else who acts as the sponsor or their visa or green card application. That sponsor must be an employee, relative, or fiancé(e). If someone else sponsors the person's visa or green card application, a friend may act as their 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.
If you are on active duty in the military, and you are sponsoring your spouse or unmarried child under 21, your income only needs to be 100% of the federal poverty guidelines, in order for you to sponsor an immigrant.
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.
How to File Form I-864
· Provide information about the immigrant you are sponsoring. This includes their name, date of birth, address, country of citizenship, alien registration number (if any) and phone number (if any).
· Provide your name, address, date of birth, citizenship, country of birth, and social security number.
· Provide your occupation or your employer. If you are self-employed, say so.
· Provide your current annual income.
· Provide the income you are using from any other person who you counted in your household size.
· Provide your total income, as reported in your federal income tax returns, for the last three years. You must also attach your federal tax return for the most recent tax year. You may (but don’t have to) attach your federal tax return for the second and third most recent tax years.
· If your income does not exceed 125 % of the federal poverty guidelines, and you want the government to look at your assets, then, list the balance of your savings and checking accounts, the net cash value of your real estate holdings, and the value of all stocks, bonds, and certificates of deposit.
· You may need to provide documentary evidence of some of the facts you list on the form. To see what evidence you need, read the instructions here.
· You must also sign a contract stating that you will financially support the immigrant. This contract is on the Form I-864. In signing this contract, you are agreeing to provide the immigrant any support necessary to keep him or her at an income that is at least 125 % of the federal poverty guidelines (or 100 %, if you are on active duty in the military and are sponsoring your spouse or unmarried child under 21). In this contract, you also promise to notify USCIS of any change in your address, by filing Form I-865, within 30 days of the address change. If you sign this contract, and then do not support the immigrant, the immigrant may sue you for breach of contract.
· You must then continue to support the immigrant until the immigrant:
Becomes a U.S. citizen
Has worked, or can receive credit for, 40 quarters of service under the social security act
Is no longer a lawful permanent resident and has left the U.S.
Is subject to removal from the U.S., but obtains a new grant of adjustment of status because someone else has filed a new affidavit of support, or
· If you are sponsoring your spouse and you get divorced, your divorce does not terminate your obligation to sponsor your spouse.
2. Sponsor your friend 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.