Every family-based green card applicant must have a financial sponsor. The sponsor files Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, to show that the intending immigrant has adequate means of financial support and is not likely to rely on the U.S. government for financial support. If the sponsor fails to meet the income requirement on Form I-864, USCIS won’t approve the intending immigrant for a green card.
As part of the public charge rule, USCIS will evaluate several factors to determine if the intending immigrant is more likely than not to become a public charge at any time in future. A Form I-864 from a sponsor with strong income is a positive factor in the totality of the circumstances.
RECOMMENDED: Public Charge Rule Explained
Income Requirements to Sponsor a Relative
The simplest way to check if you qualify as a sponsor is to review the federal poverty guidelines. Use the guidelines to determine the minimum income requirement needed to sponsor most family-based immigrants.
Your current income is the gross amount you expect to earn this year. If you have an annual salary of $36,000 and this is your only job, your current income is likely $36,000. However, if you started the year unemployed and began working on May 1, your current income would likely be approximately $24,000. Don’t confuse current income with your tax return. Your tax return shows a history of your income.
Factors such as the state where you live and active duty in the U.S. armed forces can increase or lower the income threshold. But determining household size is where many sponsors fail to properly prepare the form.
Active duty members of the U.S. armed forces (Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, or Coast Guard) will only need an income of 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines as long as they are sponsoring a spouse or minor child.
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When You Don’t Meet the Income Requirements
If your income is not sufficient to support the entire household, it’s possible to utilize the income from other household members such as a spouse or parent that’s living under the same roof. This can help the entire household meet the income requirement for Form I-864.
Or you can use the help of a joint sponsor. A joint sponsor does not have to be related to the petitioning sponsor or the intending immigrant. Using a joint sponsor doesn’t excuse the petitioner from submitting Form I-864. The petitioner must prepare and submit Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, even if he or she doesn’t qualify financially. The joint sponsor submits his or her Form I-864 along with it.
RECOMMENDED: Differences Between Household Members and Joint Sponsors
Barely Meeting the Income Requirement
USCIS determines income eligibility based on your current annual income. But what if you only met the requirement because of a new job or new source of income that you didn’t have in previous years? Your current income is more important than previous years. But since you don’t have a tax return history with sufficient income, you may need to provide evidence to document your current income.
Your new income may be from a new job or promotion that you didn’t have in previous years. It’s reasonable to think that you will continue earning this much or even more in future years. But it may still be necessary to document this new income. If your previous years’ income tax returns show that you would not have met the requirement in those previous years, you may consider including evidence of your income in the current year. This evidence may include an employment verification letter, pay stubs from the previous six months, evidence of alimony, child support, or any other source of income.