When you sign the Affidavit of Support, you accept legal responsibility for financially supporting the sponsored immigrant until he becomes a U.S. citizen or can be credited with 40 quarters of work. Any ‘joint sponsors’ or household members whose income is used to meet the minimum income requirements are also legally responsible for financially supporting the sponsored immigrant. If the immigrant receives any ‘means-tested public benefits’, you are responsible for repaying the cost of those benefits to the agency that provided them. If you do not repay the debt, the agency can sue you in court to get the money owed. When in doubt, ask the benefit provider whether the benefit is a ‘means-tested public benefit’.
Note: Currently, Federal ‘means-tested public benefits’ include Food Stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the State Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP). States and local jurisdictions may also designate certain of their programs as means-tested public benefits.
The sponsorship obligation continues until the sponsored foreign national naturalizes, has worked or can be credited with 40 quarters of work, leaves the U.S. permanently, or dies. However, a sponsor or the sponsor's estate remains liable for any support or requests for repayment of benefits that arose before the support obligation ended.