A recent court decision serves as a reminder that an individual who signs an I-864, Affidavit of Support may be held financially liable by the beneficiary. The case is summarized in our companion blog here. It is extremely important for joint sponsors to take their responsibilities seriously and to understand what they are getting into before signing an I-864. For many it is a great way to help a friend or family member secure immigration status for a loved one. But the document is a binding legal contract which no one should sign without fully understanding their rights.
Following a bench trial to a federal judge, a joint sponsor has been held liable for $10,908 in damages to an I-864 beneficiary. In Matloob v. Farhan a Pakistan national brought suit pro se against her former husband and his uncle, who signed an I-864, Affidavit of Support as a joint sponsor. Civil No. WDQ-11-1943, 2014 WL 1401924 (D.Md. May 2, 2014) (Memo. Op.).
The marriage at issue was arranged between the Pakistan national wife and a US citizen husband. Because of the husband’s low income, in order to meet sponsorship requirements for a spousal visa he was required to secure an additional “joint sponsor” I-864, which was executed by his uncle.
A trial, testimony established that the beneficiary-plaintiff had suffered physical abuse by her sponsor-husband. She suffered the abuse when the sponsor-husband was physically unable to consummate the marriage, shortly after her arrival to the US. When the couple sought medical advice for this issue the doctor discovered scares and bruising on the beneficiary-plaintiff and the police became involved. Following a bench trial the District Court concluded that the I-864 defendants had failed to carry their burden of proof on the defense of fraud. Although it was not contested that the marriage dissolved shortly after the beneficiary’s arrival in the US, there was insufficient evidence she had fraudulently induced marriage to secure an immigration benefit.[In February the District Court had denied a defense motion for summary judgement which raised the same assertions of fraudulent inducement. Farhan v. Farhan, Civil No. WDQ-11-1943, 2013 WL 453237 (D.Md. Feb. 5, 2013).]
The judge readily concluded that both sponsors were jointly and severally liable for I-864 support. The beneficiary-plaintiff had been unemployed for all of the 2010 calendar year, and had moved from the husband’s house in March of that year. The court therefore ordered support in the amount of $10,908, which represented 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for the 2010 calendar year, pro-rated for the period of time during which the beneficiary-plaintiff had resided with her husband. The beneficiary-plaintiff was instructed to seek reasonable attorney fees and costs via motion.