It is not uncommon for a person seeking immigration status in the United States (i.e. petitioner) to find him or herself in a position where the other spouse files for a divorce but the Unites States Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) has not finalized status. Oftentimes the petitioner is without financial resources to support him or herself, which can be a very daunting situation.

As part of the divorce process in Washington a spouse may seek financial support called “spousal maintenance”. However, ordering one spouse to pay the other spouse is discretionary with the court; often it is denied. Fortunately petitioners involved in pending immigration cases have another remedy.

When someone petitions for immigration status in the United States, there almost always is a sponsor who completes a form called “I-864 Financial Responsibility”. This form is a contract between the sponsor and the United States government where the sponsor not only agrees to financially support the petitioner, he or she also provides proof that he or she is able to do so.

Although the contract is between the sponsor and the United States government, the petitioner is able to enforce the contract as a beneficiary. If petitioner’s request is successful, the sponsor must financially support the petitioner which continues until:

  • the applicant becomes a United States citizen,
  • the applicant has worked or is credited with 40 qualifying quarters of coverage (as defined by the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 413),
  • the applicant no longer has lawful permanent resident status and departs the United States,
  • the applicant becomes subject to removal but obtains a new grant of adjustment status, or
  • the sponsor or the applicant dies.

In re the Matter of the Marriage of Khan, 182 Wn. App. 795 (2014).
Trying to enforce the contract pursuant to the I-864 is daunting and is made more manageable by the assistance of an experienced attorney.