When non-citizens leave abusive households they are often left with little means of support. Language barriers can make employment difficult, and many types of public assistance are unavailable. But tens of thousands – perhaps hundreds of thousands – may be eligible to receive financial support from their visa sponsors. Under law in effect since 1996, certain non-citizens are entitled to financial support from their visa sponsor. In virtually all family-based immigration cases, the sponsor is required to file a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. By signing the Form I-864, the sponsor promises to ensure that the immigrant has income at or above 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. This obligation lasts until the immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen, is credited with 40 work quarters, leaves the US under certain circumstances, or dies.
But divorce does not end the sponsor’s support obligation. For this reason, some immigrants can use the Form I-864 to recover financial support from abusive spouses, even when a divorce court would be unable to award alimony.
It is important for advocates to understand the support rights of the Form I-864. This support can provide crucial resources to clients who are transitioning to self-sufficiency. Form I-864 support may be available to clients who would normally not qualify for public benefits.
Law enforcement may benefit from an understanding of the Form I-864 when working with non-citizen survivors. Cooperating with investigators will only strengthen the survivor’s legal claim for support by documenting the individual’s bona fide reason for leaving her sponsor and requiring support.
This training will help advocates, law enforcement and other professionals identify clients/survivors who might be able to benefit from the Form I-864. Learn easy questions that can be added to your intake procedure to screen for potential eligibility. Learn to assess the scope of support to which an individual might be eligible, and what steps may be taken to enforce the support obligation.