My Ex-Spouse Has A Green Card, Am I Liable For Their Medical Bills?

When a U.S. citizen brings a foreign national to the United States, they are responsible for financially providing for them above 125% of the poverty line.

This requirement is in place by the USCIS by having the U.S. citizen sign the affidavit of support agreeing to reimburse the government if the immigrant becomes a public charge.

[Learn more about the income requirement]

So what happens if you end up divorcing your foreign spouse and no longer live together? Well, you are still held liable under the terms of the affidavit of support.

What Does The Government Consider A Public Charge?

cash-assistanceThere are only two situations on which the government may see you as a public charge:

  • Receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance purposes, including
    Supplemental Security Income (SSI),
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), excluding some supplementary cash benefits and all non-cash benefits,
  • State and local cash assistance programs for income maintenance (General Assistance)

Not every form of assistance is considered a public charge and this is to protect new (legal) immigrants and allow them to receive some help if they are in need.

What Does The Government NOT Consider A Public Charge?

The following benefits are not considered a public charge:

  • Medicaid
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP),
  • Food Stamps,
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC),
  • National School Lunch and Breakfast programs
  • Other supplementary or emergency food assistance programs.
  • Housing assistance.
  • Child care services.
  • Energy assistance.
  • Emergency disaster relief.
  • Foster care and adoption assistance.
  • Educational assistance, including benefits under the Head Start Act and aid for elementary, secondary, or higher education.
  • Job training programs.
  • Community based programs, services, or assistance (such as soup kitchens, crisis counseling and intervention, and short-term shelter.
  • Unemployment compensation
  • Non-cash benefits under TANF such as subsidized child care or transit subsidies/li>
  • Cash payments that have been earned, such as Title II Social Security benefits, government pensions, and veterans’ benefits, and other forms of earned benefits

Will I Need To Repay The Government For Medicaid For My Ex-Spouse?

medical-bills-immigrantThe answer to this question is complicated. If your ex-spouse applied and received Medicaid through the states – you will not need to worry about repaying this benefit.

However, if your ex-spouse somehow received cash assistance from the states; there is a good chance that you will need to repay this benefit.

The government has the legal right to sue you in court to recoup this money.

Although being sued by the U.S. government enforcing the affidavit of support is rare, it is still possible.

When Will My Obligations Under the Affidavit of Support (I-864) Expire?

Fortunately, your obligations under this legal document will not last forever. It will expire once your ex-spouse has worked 10 quarters or has become a U.S. citizen, which ever comes first.

The issue arises when you are not in contact with your ex-spouse and do not know whether they are working or have applied for naturalization.

In this case, there isn’t much you can do but just move on and hope your ex-spouse does not receive public benefits such as cash assistance.

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