When you sponsored your spouse for lawful permanent residency (a green card), you signed Form I-864, Affidavit of Support under Section 213A of the INA. This is a legally enforceable contract with the government that you will provide any necessary financial support to your spouse until:

  • They become a U.S. citizen
  • They earn 40 quarters (10 years) of Social Security work credits
  • They die, or
  • They cease to be a lawful permanent resident and leave the U.S.

What does the Affidavit of Support require?

If your spouse receives any means-tested public benefits (benefits that depend on having a low income), you are responsible for repaying the government for the cost of those benefits. If you do not repay the cost of the benefits, the agency that issued them can sue you in court to get the money.

What if there were joint sponsors?

If someone else combined their income with you in order to meet the minimum requirements to sponsor your spouse, you and that other person or persons are all responsible for repaying the cost of the public benefits. In fact, each of you is considered fully responsible. Each of you can be sued in court, and it won’t be a defense to say that the other person jointly sponsored your spouse.

Does divorce end my obligation?

No. In a divorce, you may be required to divide your marital property with your spouse, and you may also have to pay alimony (“spousal support”). However, you will still be required to pay the government back for any means-tested public benefits your spouse receives.

Is there anything else I should know?

Yes. If your divorce means that you will be changing address, you must notify the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within 30 days. This is done by filing Form I-865, Sponsor’s Notice of Change of Address. Failure to notify the USCIS promptly could result in a fine.

If you have questions about how divorce affects you as an immigrant or as the sponsor of an immigrant, contact Yew Immigration Law Group. Alison Yew is a board-certified specialist in immigration and naturalization law.