On September 10, USCIS announced that it was implementing a new initiative called SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements). This initiative is aimed at sponsors of immigrants, which usually includes family filing petitions as well as other individuals who complete affidavits of support at some point during the process of becoming a lawful permanent resident.
The initiative appears to have two goals: one, assisting other agencies with verifying income eligibility for benefits, and two, recovering money from sponsors who agreed to reimburse the government if the individual gets benefits.
Generally speaking, it is uncommon for lawful permanent residents to get benefits because they are not legally permitted to obtain many of the most common benefit types. If a resident does apply for benefits, the government wants to make sure their sponsor’s income is calculated as part of their own, rather than only considering just their income and household size. It is not clear to what extent agencies will actually use this data. It could result in increased benefit denial for those residents who do otherwise qualify for benefits.
It is not immediately clear to what extent the government is going to be increasing enforcement from affidavits of support. It appears seriously burdensome for the government to initiate lawsuits to recover money from sponsors, especially if the benefit amounts are relatively low. There is currently no automatic mechanism by which sponsors affirmatively support or reimburse anyone and the sponsorship requirement has largely been more of a legal requirement for completing the residency process since it was initiated.
More information about the SAVE program is available at https://www.uscis.gov/save