Sponsoring an Undocumented Immigrant for a Green Card

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For the most part, green cards issued by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are reserved for immigrants who either plan to enter the United States legally or have already done so. Under certain circumstances, however, it may still be possible for you to help a loved one who did not undergo inspection when they came to the United States to get a green card—or for a loved one to help you get one if you did not undergo inspection when entering the United States.

Either way, sponsoring an undocumented immigrant for a green card is a complicated process that takes a lot of work. With help from a qualified immigration attorney, you could have a much better chance of getting the outcome you are looking for and keeping your family together within the United States.

The Affidavit of Support

Anyone who intends to sponsor someone else for a green card must fill out and submit an affidavit of support. This affidavit is essentially a legal contract between the sponsor, the person who is filing for someone to get a green card, and USCIS. Once signed, sponsors are legally obligated to provide financial support for the green card holder until they become a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

This financial liability goes far beyond just food and shelter. As the person sponsoring any foreign national for a green card, you are responsible for every aspect of that person’s financial life.

There are a lot of requirements you must fulfill to legally sponsor anyone for a green card. First and foremost, you can only sponsor someone who is a direct family member by blood or marriage, or someone with a particular skill set who you intend to hire as an employee. Also, your yearly income must be at least 125% above the national poverty level for your household size, and you must provide documentation of your own citizenship or legal residency.

Provisional Waivers for Unlawful Presence

A potential sponsor must file the affidavit of support regardless of whether the applicant is documented or not. If a green card applicant is undocumented, steps in this process can become a lot more complicated for both parties. In most cases, the green card applicant you are sponsoring may have to leave the country before they can have their application processed.

Fortunately, there are some methods to also avoid removal from the United States. If an undocumented green card applicant has a pending application for an immigrant visa or has already had one approved, they can file for a I-601A Provisional Waiver that—if accepted—would keep their previous unlawful presence from impacting their ability to return to the United States.

An immigration attorney could talk more about the options available to you if you are sponsoring an undocumented immigrant for a green card or if you are an undocumented applicant seeking a sponsor.

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