USCIS Discusses Sponsor Obligations

On June 14, 2019, Acting Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Ken Cuccinelli [see blog] issued a statement regarding President Donald Trump's May 23, 2019, Presidential Memorandum titled “Enforcing the Legal Responsibilities of Sponsors of Aliens” [PDF version], which we discuss in full in a separate post [see article]. You may see Acting Director Cuccinelli's full statement, which we will discuss in this post [PDF version].

Acting Director Cuccinelli discussed how the USCIS will implement the Presidential memorandum. He stated that “USCIS officers will now be required to remind individuals at their adjustment of status interviews of their sponsors' responsibilities under existing law and regulations.” USCIS officers will be required to remind applicants and sponsors alike “that the Affidavit of Support is a legal and enforceable contract between the sponsor and the federal government.” For this reason, “[t]he sponsor must be willing and able to financially support the intending immigrant as outlined by law and regulations (see INA 213A and 8 CFR 213a).” Acting Director Cuccinelli emphasized that “[i]f the sponsored immigrant receives any federal means-tested public benefits, the sponsor will be expected to reimburse the benefits-granting agency for every dollar of benefits received by the immigrant.”

Acting Director Cuccinelli's statement does not include any new policies beyond the requirement that USCIS officers emphasize the sponsorship obligations, where applicable. Instead, he noted that “[o]ver the next several months, federal agencies will develop and implement guidance on the presidential memorandum to make sure agencies enforce [the sponsorship] requirements.” As part of this effort, he stated that the USCIS will work to implement President Trump's directive in coordination with its federal partners. In so doing, he signaled that the USCIS may update its policies and regulations over the coming months.

Acting Director Cuccinelli's statements come as the Administration as a whole is moving to expanding the public charge definitions and strengthening enforcement of sponsorship obligations [see blog]. These moves make it more important than ever for both sponsors and sponsored aliens to understand the full scope of sponsorship requirements and obligations. Prospective sponsors and beneficiaries of immigrant visa petitions requiring sponsors should consult with an experienced immigration attorney throughout the entire process, including for a comprehensive understanding of the current laws and regulations regarding public charge and the types of changes that we may expect in the future. Current sponsors and sponsored aliens may consult with an experienced attorney for case-specific guidance to resolve any questions or concerns.

To learn more about public charge and sponsorship generally under the current laws and regulations, please see our main article on the subject [see article]. We discuss general issues relating to the types of visa petitions primarily affected in our growing selection of articles on Family Immigration [see category].