Strict Enforcement of Affidavits of Support (Form I-864) on the Horizon

For the past 20 years, Congress has required a foreign national’s sponsor to sign an affidavit of support (Form I-864) pledging financial support in the event the sponsored foreign national applies for or receives means-tested public benefits. The law requires that when a foreign national receives certain forms of means-tested public benefits, the agency providing the public benefit must request reimbursement from the financial sponsor. The law also requires that when a foreign national applies for certain means-tested public benefits, the sponsor’s financial resources must be counted as part of the foreign national’s financial resources in determining both eligibility for the benefits and the amount of benefits that may be awarded. The major means-tested public benefits programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). (There are exceptions for those who have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty or who would be unable to obtain food and shelter without the public benefits, for children and pregnant women who are lawfully residing in the United States and receiving medical assistance from a state under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or Medicaid, and for those receiving SNAP benefits who are members of the sponsor’s household or are under 18 years old.)

The White House recently issued a memo directing relevant agencies to update or issue procedures, guidance, and regulations by August 21, 2019, as needed, to strictly enforce the existing income-deeming and reimbursement laws when sponsored immigrants seek certain means-tested public benefits and thereby ensure that ineligible non-citizens do not receive such public benefits. The memo states that agencies are not adequately enforcing these requirements, both due to insufficient procedures and guidance for implementing reimbursement and for the deeming requirements.

Among other things, the memo directs relevant agencies to update or issue guidance relating to procedures for notifying the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security of the sponsor’s nonpayment and procedures for requesting that the Attorney General bring a civil action against the sponsor.

On a related note, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a proposed rule that would require the verification of the eligible immigration status of all recipients of assistance under HUD’s public housing programs who are under the age of 62.

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