Can a Friend Sponsor Me for My American Visa?

Visiting and immigrating to the United States can be a difficult process. While many people claim that hard work and “waiting your turn” is enough, the hurdles of obtaining an American visa are often challenging. This is especially true for those without family or employment relationships in the country. This leaves many questioning if a friend can sponsor a person for an American visa.

As with most issues involving American immigration, the answer to this question is complex. Having friends in the United States typically isn’t enough to secure entry on a long-term basis. However, such friendships can make the process easier. In fact, a trusted friend may be able to improve your odds of securing an American visa in certain situations.

It’s important to understand your options.

 When Can a Friend Sponsor an American Visa?

Unfortunately, a friend cannot petition for a visa or green card on your behalf unless this friend is also a family member, fiance, or employer. Without such relationships, your path to securing a visa or becoming an American citizen can be much more complex. In these situations, you should discuss your options with an attorney. However, this doesn’t mean that a friend can’t financially sponsor you.

The U.S. government wants to ensure visa holders won’t be a financial burden on the country. This means they’ll view your application more favorably if you have a financial sponsor. This sponsor must meet the following qualifications:

  • Be an American citizen or have a green card
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Live within the U.S. or one of its territories
  • Meet minimum income requirements

Minimum income requirements will vary based on your friend’s financial situation. You could have two friends who earn the same income, but if their living situations are different, one may be unable to sponsor you while the other can. These are complex matters, and in most cases, individuals seeking a U.S. visa sponsored by a friend would benefit from discussing their case with an immigration attorney.

What’s the Process for Financially Sponsoring a Visa?

If the minimum qualifications for a friend sponsoring your American visa are met, they’ll need to fill out an Affidavit of Support. This is Form I-864 and must be submitted with supporting documentation showing that your friend meets the requirements. After filling out the form, your friend will need to sign it in front of a notary public and have it notarized. The form should then be submitted along with your friend’s most recent tax return and Form W-2.

You can further improve your odds of obtaining a visa with a sponsor friend by asking them to include extra supporting documentation (e.g., additional years’ tax returns, recent pay stubs, employer letters). Of course, not all financial situations look the same. For instance, documentation proving a friend’s ability to sponsor you can look different if they’re self-employed or in the Armed Forces.

That’s why you should consider a person’s unique financial circumstances when having a friend sponsor your visa. For instance, a self-employed friend may need to submit copies of their Schedule C rather than a W-2. Alternatively, a friend who is using personal assets to meet financial requirements would need to include ownership documentation for their assets. Put simply, these are complex issues that could benefit from legal guidance.

What Does It Mean to Financially Sponsor a Friend’s Visa?

Financial sponsorship isn’t enough to secure a visa. However, it can greatly improve your odds of receiving one. Still, it’s important to realize that this isn’t just a piece of paper your friend is submitting. When someone agrees to financially sponsor an individual, they’re taking on a significant responsibility. They’re essentially telling the U.S. government that they’ll be financially responsible for you.

If you end up receiving means-tested government benefits, your sponsoring friend could face fines and even a lawsuit. The following assistance programs could result in trouble for your friend if you seek benefits through them:

  • Food stamps
  • Medicaid
  • Temporary Assistance for Need Families (TANF)
  • State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

When a person accesses these programs, they’re considered a “public charge.” If someone financially sponsors their friend’s American visa, they’re promising the government that they’ll provide support so the visa holder doesn’t need such programs. There are still public benefits that are accessible — such as Head Start programs, non-cash emergency relief, and immunizations — but make sure you understand the rules before applying.

Do You Have Other Options?

If a friend cannot financially sponsor you, there are still options available. For instance, your friend can write a Letter of Invitation if your trip to America is only temporary in nature. This will let the government know that you have a place to stay during your visit, but it should also be clear that you plan on returning to your home country. However, there are different requirements if you plan on staying for a while.

The simple fact is that any long-term visa holder or potential citizen must have a financial sponsor. If you have a family member petitioning for your visa, they can also serve as this sponsor. The great thing about having a friend willing to sign an Affidavit of Support is that your family member or spouse won’t need to prove their ability to financially support you. Of course, there are some who don’t have any such relations.

Fortunately, there are many pathways to securing a visa or green card in America. Employees, investors, asylum seekers, and many others have options. To understand the best path forward in your situation — whether it’s a friend sponsoring your visa or other strategies — you should speak with a legal professional. Gilliam Law handles all immigration matters, so we’re here to help. Contact us today at (866) 511-3422 to schedule your Free Case Evaluation.


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