What U.S. Citizens And Residents Need To Know About Financial Obligations For Immigrant Spouses

29 December 2018
 Categories: Law, Blog


Are you a citizen or permanent resident of the United States who is hoping to have your spouse immigrate to the United States? If so, you're probably aware that there are numerous hurdles you have to leap and issues you face. There are also a few things that you need to think about very carefully before you go any further.

One thing that deserves your careful consideration is the USCIS Form 1-864. This is also known as the Affidavit of Support. Before you sign one, read the following information.

You Are Accepting A Long-Term Obligation For Your Spouse

The United States wants to ensure that immigrants who are brought over by their spouses don't ultimately become a drain on the nation's resources. That's the sole purpose of Form 1-864. Once you sign it, you are accepting an obligation to provide your immigrant spouse with financial support at 125% of the U.S. Poverty Guidelines until:

  • Your spouse becomes a U.S. citizen in his or her own right.
  • Your spouse earns 40 work credits toward Social Security (roughly 10 years of work).
  • Your spouse permanently leaves the United States again.
  • Your spouse dies.

It's important to understand that the I-864 creates a contract between you and the federal government -- not you and your spouse. That means that your spouse cannot waive the contract in the future under any circumstances.

The Obligation Continues Even Past A Divorce

Even if you and your immigrant spouse eventually separate and divorce, you will not be relieved of your obligation under the I-864. While you may not be able to imagine a split between you and your spouse at this point, you owe it to yourself to be realistic about the possibility. 

You should also realize that there's really no relief offered by the terms of the I-864. If, for example, you separate from your spouse and he or she briefly files for medical benefits and food stamps from the state, you'll be required to reimburse the state for those expenses.

You also won't be relieved of the obligation if your spouse moves in with someone else after the separation -- even if that other person is a romantic partner and is providing for his or her needs. In addition, your spouse will not be legally required to mitigate the expense you face by going to work -- even if he or she has the ability to earn an income. 

Immigration is a complex area of law, and there are a lot of traps for the unwary. You need to fully understand what you are signing each step of the way in order to prepare yourself for all possibilities. An immigration attorney can help you better understand your rights and obligations as you proceed.