What is 40 "work quarters" for purpose of the I-864?

The sponsor’s obligation under the I-864 terminates when the beneficiary acquires 40 quarters of work under the Social Security Act.[1] But whose work quarters count towards that threshold? In the California case of Gross v. Gross, a pro se plaintiff argued that her husband’s quarters of work did not count towards the 40 quarters.[2] Following the plain text of the Form I-864 and underlying statute, the Court disagreed. The statute specifically provides that in counting quarters of work, the beneficiary shall be credited with “all of the qualifying quarters worked by a spouse of such alien during their marriage and the alien remains married to such spouse or such spouse is deceased.”[3]

The Form I-864 itself, official instructions, and statute all refer to work quarters with which the beneficiary may be “credited” rather than those she has earned.[4] As the Gross Court concludes, it is clear that a beneficiary can be credited with work quarters earned by her spouse. Note, however, that this does not necessarily resolve the issue of whether quarters can be double-stacked. If both the beneficiary and sponsor are working, it is not obvious that two work quarters should be simultaneously counted towards the 40-quarter threshold.[5]

[1] Clients and even immigration attorneys sometimes believe that I-864 obligations end after 10 years. That is incorrect. The obligations are terminated after the beneficiary may be credited with 40 quarters of work under the Social Security Act. That threshold could be met in ten years, but not necessarily.

[2] E060475 (Cal. App., 4th Dist., 2nd Div. Aug. 6, 2015).

[3] Id. (citing INA § 213A(a)(3)(A)).

[4] See id.

[5] Cf. Davis v. Davis, No. WD-11-006 (Ohio Ct. App. May 11, 2012) (Singer, J. dissenting) (arguing that double-stacking should not be applied).