Financial Sponsor Needed for a Family-Based Green Card

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Family walks together after financial sponsor of green card

Generally, every family-based green card applicant must have a financial sponsor. Even if the person immigrating is financially stable or has a job waiting in the United States, it's necessary to have a qualified financial sponsor for the purpose of overcoming the economic grounds of inadmissibility. Whoever files the visa petition (such as Form I-130 or I-129F) must also agree to sponsor the beneficiary. If the petitioner does not have a sufficient income to qualify, there are options.

Economic Grounds of Inadmissibility, Explained

In order to gain entry into the United States and become a permanent resident (green card holder), a foreign national must meet certain eligibility requirements and also prove that they are not inadmissible under INA § 212(a). There are numerous grounds of inadmissibility -- economic grounds of inadmissibility is one.

The need for a financial sponsor is rooted in the requirements that a new immigrant not be inadmissible to the United States. In fact, a foreign national who is deemed to be a “public charge” is inadmissible by law. The U.S. government defines a public charge as a person who is likely at any time to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence. Generally, subsistence includes persons who receive public cash assistance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense. Institutionalization for short periods of rehabilitation does not constitute such primary dependence.

This immigration law helps ensure that new immigrants will not need to rely on public benefits. Examples of public benefits include food stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. If the new immigrant uses certain cashed-based public benefits in the future, the agency that gave the benefits can require that the financial sponsor repay that money.

Financial Sponsors File Form I-864, Affidavit of Support

Whichever family member signed the visa petition (Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative or Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé) will also need to submit Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. This lengthy document is a contract between a financial sponsor and the U.S. government, in which the sponsor promises to support the intending immigrant if they are unable to do so on their own. Generally, the sponsor must prove that they have an income that is at least 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines based on the household size.

2024 Income Requirements for Financial Sponsor
Sponsor's Household Size100% of FPG125% of FPG
Each additional personAdd $5,380Add $6,725

Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Poverty Guidelines (2024)

The guidelines above apply to residents in the 48 contiguous states (as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands). Certain active-duty military sponsoring a spouse or child may qualify at 100 percent of the FPG. For sponsors residing in the states of Alaska or Hawaii, there are modified guidelines.

The sample chart above is for 2024. The financial sponsor will need to check the most current federal poverty guidelines before filing Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. If USCIS increases the guidelines later, it won’t affect applications that have already been filed. Sponsors who want guidance through this process can use CitizenPath to prepare Form I-864. Our Affidavit of Support Package makes it easy to determine household size, household income, and make sure you meet the requirements to sponsor a green card holder.

When to Submit Form I-864

The sponsor submits Form I-864 at the time the beneficiary is applying for a green card. For adjustment of status applicants, Form I-864 is typically submitted with the Form I-485. For consular processing applicants, sponsors submit Form I-864 when requested by the National Visa Center.

Adjustment of status applicants will generally submit all forms together. If you're applying for a green card while inside the United States, file Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) concurrently with Form I-485 (Application to Adjust Status).

Individuals who will apply for a green card from outside the United States, do not file Form I-864 with the Form I-130. Instead, they wait until USCIS approves the I-130 petition and transitions the case to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC contacts the petitioner and beneficiary to let them know it's time to submit a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. Typically, this is several months after filing Form I-130.

Financial Sponsorship Examples

Example 1

Jessica is a U.S citizen who petitioned her spouse, Eduardo, for a green card. Eduardo also has a 10-year-old child from a previous marriage. So, Jessica submitted a separate visa petition for her step child. She is a resident of New York, and their total household size is three. It includes Jessica plus the two intending immigrants. Therefore, Jessica must have a minimum annual income of $32,275 in order to sponsor her spouse and stepchild. She must submit two separate I-864 affidavits. Each intending immigrant has their own petition. Thus, she must submit a separate Form I-864 for each person.

Example 2

Rajesh, a U.S. citizen, has petitioned his adult son, Nilesh, an Indian national. Nilesh also has a dependent spouse and two minor children that were listed on the immigrant petition. Although Nilesh is highly educated and will probably find a well-paying job quickly, Rajesh must act as the financial sponsor for his family. Rajesh is currently living with his wife only. Therefore, the new household size is six. As a resident of California, Rajesh needs an annual income of at least $52,450 to act as the financial sponsor for the four intending immigrants (Nilesh, his wife and two children). Since all intending immigrants are listed on the same I-130 petition, Rajesh only needs to submit one I-864 affidavit.

When the Financial Sponsor’s Income is Insufficient

If the financial sponsor’s income does not meet the requirement, personal assets such as checking and savings accounts, stocks, bonds, or property may be considered as part of the sponsor's financial resources. The assets must be convertible to cash within one year. Further, the assets don’t get counted at their full cash value. The value will be adjusted on the affidavit of support.

Most people don’t have the cash assets required to qualify. So it’s easier to find a household member or joint sponsor who can contribute. If there is a relative (spouse, adult child, parent, or sibling) that lives in the same household as the main sponsor, they can generally participate as a household member that contributes income. On the other hand, a joint sponsor is an additional sponsor that doesn’t have to be related (to either party) and doesn’t have to live at the same address. Learn more about the differences between a household member and joint sponsor.

Example 1 (household member)

Margaret is a naturalized U.S. citizen who lives in America with her husband, William. Margaret’s mother is a widow, and they want to sponsor her for a green card to come live with them. Margaret does not work; therefore, she has no individual income. Her spouse is employed with sufficient income to meet the financial sponsorship requirement. Margaret must submit Form I-864 because she is the one who petitioned her mother. However, because William is a household member, he can include his income in the calculation by filing out Form I-864A, Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member. They submit both forms (I-864 and I-864A) together.

Example 2 (joint sponsor)

Jean Paul is a permanent resident who wants to help his Haitian spouse get a green card and move to the United States. Jean Paul is young and is still attending college. In fact, he has no income because of his status as a full-time student. He is also living alone, so he has no household members to help him sponsor his wife. Jean Paul’s father, who also lives in the U.S., steps in as a joint sponsor. Since he is not living with Jean Paul, he cannot be a household member. Instead, he is a joint sponsor. Jean Paul must submit Form I-864 even though he doesn’t have an income. Then, his father also submits Form I-864 as a joint sponsor.

Making a determination about the household and joint sponsors can be confusing. Let CitizenPath service help guide you through this process. The Affidavit of Support service is free to get started. Get started to see if your household income is sufficient to sponsor your relative. Get help from our team if you run into a problem.

When Obligations Under Affidavit of Support End

A financial sponsor’s obligations under Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, will end if the person who becomes a lawful permanent resident based on that affidavit:

  • Becomes a U.S. citizen;
  • Has worked, or can receive credit for, 40 quarters of coverage under the Social Security Act;
  • No longer has lawful permanent resident status and has departed the United States;
  • Is subject to removal, but applies for and obtains, in remove proceedings, a new grant of adjustment of status, based on a new affidavit of support, if one is required; or
  • Dies.

However, divorce does not terminate a financial sponsor's obligations under Form I-864.

Exemptions for the Affidavit of Support

It’s uncommon, but there are a few exceptions to the requirement for an affidavit of support. Perhaps most common is the exception for parents of a petitioned child (under age 18) that will immediately obtain U.S. citizenship through derivation. If the immigrant beneficiary is a child who will become a U.S. citizen immediately upon approval or entry to the U.S. for permanent residence, no Form I-864 must be filed for the child. In this case, the petitioner should submit a Form I-864W to explain the situation.

Individuals who have been working in the United States already for many years may also be exempt from filing Form I-864. To qualify, the green card applicant must have earned or received credit for 40 qualifying quarters (credits) of work in the United States as defined by the Social Security Act. If you think you may qualify, obtain your SSA earnings statement as evidence.

Additional exceptions may apply for self-petitioning widows or widowers of U.S. citizens and self-petitioning battered spouses or children.

About CitizenPath

CitizenPath provides simple, affordable, step-by-step guidance through USCIS immigration applications. Individuals, attorneys and non-profits use the service on desktop or mobile device to prepare immigration forms accurately, avoiding costly delays. CitizenPath allows users to try the service for free and provides a 100% money-back guarantee that USCIS will approve the application or petition. We provide support for the Adjustment of Status Package (Form I-485), Affidavit of Support Package (Form I-864), and several other immigration services.

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