USCIS launches move to make sponsors pay for public benefits

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Agencies providing public benefits may seek court order for reimbursement by sponsor.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Thursday announced a new initiative to hold sponsors of foreign immigrants legally responsible to financially support them.

Called the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE), the new initiative provides information about sponsors to agencies that administer federal means-tested public benefits.

It will enable these agencies to ensure more effective compliance with federal laws, regulations, and policies related to financial support of aliens by their sponsors and agency reimbursement, the immigration agency said.

“The Trump administration has made it clear that existing immigration laws must be enforced, and sponsors of aliens should be held legally accountable for the financial responsibilities they willingly accept,” said USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow.

“This enhanced feature will support participating public-benefit granting agencies as they manage their programs and determine an alien’s eligibility for public assistance by ensuring consistency with current law, established sponsorship requirements and proper accountability.”

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With this new SAVE initiative, USCIS said it is asking these agencies to now share how they use the SAVE sponsorship information in their sponsor assessment and agency reimbursement processes.

The collected information will help participating agencies learn and improve how they use sponsor information to make eligibility determinations and hold sponsors accountable, it said.

This initiative will also allow USCIS to improve how it administers the SAVE program and help agencies that administer benefits programs better meet obligations under agency reimbursement laws and regulations.

This new SAVE initiative stems from the May 2019 Presidential Memorandum on Enforcing the Legal Responsibilities of Sponsors of Aliens, USCIS said.

It had directed increased oversight and data collection to ensure more effective compliance in determining eligibility for federal means-tested benefits and reimbursement requirements.

Sponsored aliens sometimes apply for and receive means-tested public benefits from federal, state, local, or tribal agencies, USCIS said.

However, they may be ineligible for certain means-tested public benefits because the granting agency will consider their sponsor’s income and resources when determining the immigrant’s eligibility for the benefits.

If a sponsored alien receives a means-tested public benefit, the sponsor is responsible, upon request, for reimbursing the agency providing the benefit.

An agency can seek a court order for repayment if a sponsor does not issue reimbursement, USCIS said.

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