On December 19, 1997, the interim USCIS regulations requiring a new Affidavit of Support form took effect. The result of the change in the law is that low-income petitioners will find it more difficult to sponsor family members and many sponsors will have an increased burden in connection with their completion of the new form and compiling the necessary evidence.
A major change in the law is the requirement that for all cases in which the new form is mandated, the petitioning family member must be the sponsor. A friend or another relative is no longer allowed to file for the beneficiary. The sponsor (petitioning family member) must be (1) a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or Lawful Permanent resident; and (2) must have a U.S. domicile, defined as a place where the sponsor has a residence with the intention to maintain that residence for the foreseeable future; and (3) must demonstrate the capability to financially support the immigrant.
The new Affidavit of Support creates a legally enforceable contract between the petitioner sponsor and the United States government for the benefit of the sponsored alien or for the benefit of any state, federal or local governmental agency, or private entity that administers any means-tested public benefits program. By signing the Affidavit of Support, the sponsor agrees to support the sponsored immigrant at 125% of poverty guidelines. The sponsor is liable for reimbursement to the federal or state government or private entity if the sponsored immigrant receives a means-tested public benefit.
The sponsors obligation terminates upon the sponsored immigrants naturalization or when he or she has worked or can be credited with 40 qualifying quarters of work. The sponsors obligation also ceases when the sponsored alien dies or is no longer a permanent resident and has departed from the U.S. Likewise, the obligation of the sponsor also terminates when that person dies.