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For typical family-based immigrants attempting to obtain a green card, the petitioning relative must sign a form I-864 Affidavit of Support. By signing this Affidavit, the petitioner is agreeing with the U.S. Government that if the immigrant obtains federal governmental benefits, the government has the right to seek reimbursement from the petitioner. Note that this is only with regard to federal governmental benefits for the immigrant only, and does not include any state benefits. It also does not include any benefits received by the immigrant's family members. This agreement is in effect for the shorter period of (1) the immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen, (2) the immigrant dies, (3) the immigrant works 40 quarters (which would be 10 years straight employment), (4) the immigrant permanently leaves the U.S., or (5) the immigrant receives a green card based on a new Affidavit of Support. Note that divorce does not terminate the petitioner's obligations under the Affidavit of Support.
Last year, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") announced the Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver ("Provisional Waiver") in hopes of common sense reform that would assist families to stay together. Traditionally, when a relative of an immigrant who entered without inspection filed an immigration petition on his or her behalf, the immigrant would leave the country for the immigrant visa interview, be denied due to inadmissibility, and then file for waiver of the inadmissibility bar outside the U.S. With the traditional waiver, immigrants were left outside the U.S. in a sort of purgatory while waiting on a decision from USCIS.
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