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Presidential Memorandum on Enforcing the Legal Responsibilities of Sponsors of Aliens – Stakeholder Message

USCIS Acting Director Cuccinelli tweeted June 14 that “@USCIS took action to further @POTUS directive to enforce the legal responsibilities of sponsors. Self-sufficiency is a principle that has been enshrined in our laws since the 1800s & we must ensure that immigrants who become part of our country abide by this principle.” His multiple tweets also stated that USCIS will now “remind individuals at their adjustment of status interviews of their sponsors’ responsibilities… reimbursement for any federal means-tested public benefits” and will work with all necessary federal partners to implement the presidential memorandum.

The presidential memorandum is here.

Following is the USCIS message to stakeholders, issued today:

On May 23, 2019, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum on Enforcing the Legal Responsibilities of Sponsors of Aliens. The purpose of the memorandum is to direct relevant federal agencies to update or issue procedures, guidance, and regulations, as needed, to comply with current law and ensure that ineligible immigrants do not receive federal means-tested benefits. With the memorandum, the Administration seeks to enforce long-standing immigration laws, ensure consistency among federal and state agencies responsible in administering any federal means-tested public benefit programs, and protect the American taxpayer.

Most family-based immigrants and some employment-based immigrants must submit Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA, when they apply for status as a lawful permanent resident. The individual executing the affidavit of support, whether sponsor, substitute sponsor, or joint sponsor, agrees to accept legal responsibility for financially supporting the intending immigrant who applies for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident.

Since Dec. 19, 1997, federal law has required an immigrant’s sponsor to reimburse any benefit granting entity in the event the sponsored immigrant applies for or receives means-tested public benefits. The INA also requires that, if a benefit-granting entity is notified that a sponsored immigrant is receiving a means-tested public benefit, the benefit-granting entity request reimbursement from the sponsor(s). The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 states that when an individual with an affidavit of support applies for a federal means-tested benefit, the income and resources of the sponsor and the sponsor’s spouse are deemed to be income and resources when determining the immigrant’s ’s eligibility for the benefit.

Over the next several months, federal agencies will develop and implement guidance related to the presidential memorandum to ensure that agencies enforce these long-established requirements under the law. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will do its part and is actively working to implement the President’s directive and enforce the law.

For more information on the Memorandum, the Affidavit of Support, and sponsor responsibilities, visit

Kind regards,

Public Engagement Division

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

©2020 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved. National Law Review, Volume IX, Number 168



About this Author

Robert Maples, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, Northern Virginia, Washington DC, Government Policy

Robert Y. Maples is experienced in the Washington, D.C. federal, state and public affairs arenas. He has also been an advocate for building pragmatic alliances to resolve major social issues and has pioneered strategies for addressing complex public affairs crises in collaborative versus confrontational contexts. He continues his advocacy of pragmatic alliances in furtherance of client/government collaborations among the Congress and federal agencies, and serves as state counsel on complex client public policy matters. He is experienced in complex problem solving in...