How much would it cost an American citizen to sponsor a non-American citizen in the U.S.? How long would it take, and what would be the implications?
A US citizen may, in general, only sponsor family members (specifically, one spouse, and any number of parents, children, or siblings) for immigration. The process takes about a year for spouses, parents and children, and significantly longer for siblings. The current (May 2017) fee for the I-130 petition is $535 per primary beneficiary. In addition, each beneficiary now living outside the United States (whether a primary beneficiary or a dependent) must pay a consular processing fee of $325. Each beneficiary currently living in the United States must instead pay an adjustment of status fee of between $750 and $1225, depending on the age and other circumstances of the individual. (I have no idea why the AOS fee is so much higher than the consular processing fee.) There will also be fees for the required medical examination, which are paid to the doctor who conducts the exam and may vary. There may be other fees as well, depending on circumstances or on things I’ve forgotten about. If you use an attorney, you will probably have to pay attorney fees, which will vary but typically start at around $2000 or so and go up from there with the complexity of the case. There may also be fees that you must pay to third parties to obtain required documentation (such as tax transcripts, certified copies of bank records, birth, marriage, and death certificates, etc.).The sponsor is legally responsible to provide for the basic needs of the immigrant or immigrants he or she sponsors until they naturalize as US citizens, earn 40 quarters of Social Security employment credits, terminate their US residency, or die. The sponsor can be required to reimburse the United States or the government of any State for any expenses incurred by the government to provide subsistence assistance to a person they sponsored who has not met these cutoff criteria. Note that this can be a lifelong obligation.In addition to family-based immigration, a US employer may sponsor a nonrelative as an employee. The process here is somewhat different, and the time frames will vary considerably depending on the qualifications required of the position. The overall fees are roughly similar (the I-140 fee is $700, rather than the $535 of the I-130 fee, and the consular processing fee is slightly higher for employment-based applications as well, but the AOS fee is the same). For employment-based immigrants, there is no obligation of support, but an employer that fires an immigrant shortly after they arrive will find their ability to sponsor further immigrants impaired.There is no process by which a US citizen may sponsor a random, unrelated foreign person to immigrate except as an employee. About the closest you can get to this is for a kind and generous soul to agree to provide a I-134 Affidavit of Support for someone who has otherwise qualified to immigrate in some other category (almost always the diversity visa lottery) but does not have sufficient resources to prove that they will not become a public charge. There is a $120 fee associated with filing an I-134 in connection with someone else’s immigrant visa application. Filing an I-134 to support an immigrant does not carry the lifetime commitment that the filer of Form I-864 (sponsor of an immigrant) does; indeed, it is generally accepted that the obligation created by filing form I-134 is effectively unenforceable.