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White House Issues Memorandum Ordering the Enforcement of Sponsor Reimbursement Laws

By: Angelita Chavez | May 29, 2019

By: Angelita Chavez-Halaka, Armando Escobedo, Gladys Gervacio


On May 23, 2019, President Trump issued a memorandum to ensure the strict enforcement of Section 213A of the 1997 Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) and Section 421 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation (PRWOR) Act of 1996, also known as the Affidavit of Support reimbursement obligation.  

Background: The 1997 INA and PRWOR Act of 1996 made it a requirement for most family-based immigrant visa cases to have an Affidavit of Support and a “sponsor” for the intending immigrant (“immigrant’). An Affidavit of Support is a contractual agreement between a sponsor and the United States government showing that the sponsor is able to financially support the immigrant for at least 10 years, or until the immigrant becomes a United States citizen, so that the immigrant does not become a public charge. A sponsor will be financially liable to reimburse the government if an immigrant receives public benefits during the period of financial obligation.

What Will Strict Enforcement Look Like?
  • Cases in which the sponsor fails to comply with his statutory reimbursement obligation will be referred by the Secretaries of Treasury and Homeland Security to the Attorney General (AG) for enforcement.
Who are impacted?
  • All current sponsors who have signed an Affidavit of Support and those who plan to sign an Affidavit of Support
  • All others who may become accountable for reimbursing the cost of public benefits paid to an immigrant
  • All current sponsored immigrants and those who are seeking to become sponsored immigrants
Any Exceptions?
  • Certain refugees and nonimmigrants such as VAWA
Implementation Time-Line:

Within 90 Days: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services will take necessary steps to enforce Section 213A by updating and establishing guidance and procedures to:

  • Recover reimbursement from a financial sponsor for means-tested public benefit payments made to the immigrant
  • Notify the sponsor of amounts owed and any measures related to appeals, payment plans, non-response and non-reimbursement
  • Notify the AG and Secretary of Homeland Security of a sponsor’s non-payment and measures for the AG to bring a civil action against the sponsor
  • Share data with Federal agencies
  • Determine how the income and resources of the sponsor and the sponsor’s spouse will be attributable to the immigrant in deciding eligibility for the means-tested public benefit and the amount of benefits that may be awarded
  • Determine whether any exceptions to the reimbursement requirements will apply

Within 180 Days: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services and the Commissioner of Social Security will coordinate with the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to:

  • Establish and preserve records of the financial sponsor’s reimbursement obligations and status
  • Establish measures to share data with the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security regarding each sponsor’s reimbursement obligations and status
Recommendations for Current Sponsors:

Speak to an attorney regarding your financial obligations

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