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White House Seeks to Enforce Affidavit of Support Obligations

Posted June 17, 2019Articles

On May 23, 2019, the White House issued a memorandum directing federal agencies to comply with laws restricting certain immigrants from receiving federal means-tested benefits. Under federal immigration law, certain individuals who were required to have a sponsor execute and enforceable affidavit support are ineligible to receive means-tested public benefits, such as from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), State Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Key points:

  • The memorandum reminds relevant federal agencies that when a sponsored individual applied for benefits, the resources of the sponsor must be counted.
  • It further reminds agencies that the sponsor is expected to fulfill their commitments under the affidavit of support, which can include reimbursing the government.
  • It directs the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services to establish or update procedures and guidance within 90 days on how to notify sponsors of amounts owed and how to collect reimbursements from sponsors.
  • By the end of fiscal year 2019, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services are directed to provide relevant federal and state officials with procedures on how to notify sponsors of reimbursement obligations for means-tested public benefits.
  • By the end of fiscal year 2019, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services are directed notify those in the following situations of how reimbursement requirements will be enforced:
    • All current sponsors and those seeking to become sponsors who have signed or plan to sign an affidavit of support;
    • Others who, under applicable provisions of law, may become liable for reimbursing the cost of public benefits paid to a sponsored alien;
    • All current sponsored aliens and those seeking to become sponsored aliens.

In general, sponsors who have signed an affidavit of support can be held responsible for the costs of means-tested public benefits provided by federal, state, local or private agencies. A sponsor’s obligations continue until:

  • The sponsored immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen;
  • The sponsored immigrant has worked or can receive credit for 40 quarters of coverage under the Social Security Act;
  • The sponsored immigrant is no longer a lawful permanent resident and has departed the United States;
  • The sponsored immigrant is subject to removal, but applies for and obtains, while in removal proceedings, a new grant of adjustment of status based on a new affidavit of support, if one is required;
  • The sponsored immigrant dies; or
  • The sponsor dies. However, the sponsor’s estate may be responsible for the cost of benefits accumulated before the sponsor’s death.

If you are a sponsor, are thinking about sponsoring an individual, or are a sponsored immigrant and have questions about how enforcement may affect you, please reach out to your designated Meltzer Hellrung LLC attorney.