Even many immigration lawyers consider Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, to be one of the most confusing immigration forms. It’s a little like combining the financials of a tax return with the complexity of an immigration form. In fact, that’s basically what it is. The stakes are high. If the sponsor does not qualify, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will not issue the intending immigrant permanent residence (green card).
When a foreign national applies for permanent residence in the United States, immigration officials are obligated in most cases to make sure that the intending immigrant has adequate means of financial support and is not likely to become a public charge. USCIS requires Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, for most family-based applications and some employment-based applications. It’s a contract between a sponsor and the U.S. government, in which the sponsor promises to support the intending immigrant if he or she is unable to do so on their own. It’s a back-up plan in case the immigrant has financial problems.
Preparing this mandatory form can be difficult. We’ve compiled the top 7 questions about Form I-864, Affidavit of Support:
Do I need to submit a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, with my green card application?
At the time of applying for a green card, U.S. immigration law requires the following immigrants to submit Form I-864 completed by the sponsor:
- Family-based immigrants
- Employment-based preference immigrants in cases when a relative filed the immigrant visa petition
- Employment-based preference immigrants when a family member has a significant ownership interest (five percent or more) in the entity that filed the petition
The relative who filed the visa petition (e.g. Form I-130, I-129F, I-140, etc.) must act as a sponsor on Form I-864. This relative may be referred to as the petitioning sponsor.
In very rare cases, there are some exceptions for intending immigrants with 40 qualifying quarters of work in the U.S., those that will automatically acquire U.S. citizenship under section 320 of the INA, self-petitioning widows or widowers who have an approved Form I-360, and battered spouses and children who have an approved Form I-360.
Do I qualify as a sponsor on Form I-864, Affidavit of Support?
A sponsor completes Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, on behalf of the intending immigrant. Generally, the sponsor must:
- Be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or lawful permanent resident age 18 or older;
- Have income 125% above the federal poverty line; and
- Prove the United States is his or her country of domicile.
Modifications to the income requirement are made for residents of Alaska and Hawaii and members of the U.S. armed forces. For a detailed table of required income by household size, refer to Form I-864P, HHS Poverty Guidelines for Affidavit of Support.
As a general rule, every green card application should include an affidavit of support prepared by a petitioning sponsor. The petitioning sponsor is the relative who filed the immigrant visa petition on behalf of the intending immigrant. If the petitioning sponsor does not have the financial resources to qualify, additional sponsors may be added.
My income is too low to be an I-864 sponsor. What can I do?
If your income is below the threshold, and you are the only sponsor, the government will most likely deny the intending immigrant’s green card application. There are three fundamental ways to resolve this problem:
Add Other Household Members’ Income
If the sponsor has a spouse, siblings, parents, or adult children with the same principal residence, they may combine their income with the sponsor. Each household member who contributes income will need to prepare and submit Form I-864A along with the primary Form I-864.
Obtain a Joint Sponsor
Another person can act as a joint sponsor. There may be as many as two joint sponsors. A joint sponsor does not need to be related to the petitioner or intending immigrant. (More below)
A sponsor may use assets to meet the requirement. Assets that can be “converted into cash within one year and without considerable hardship or financial loss to the owner” may be included. Examples of assets can include the net value of the sponsor’s home, savings, and checking account balances. The rules for what can be used and what value is assigned can get complicated. We recommend the use of an immigration attorney.
Refer to instructions for Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, for detailed instructions on each of the above options.
What is a joint sponsor?
If the petitioning sponsor’s household income is insufficient to meet the requirements on Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, he or she may enlist the additional support of a joint sponsor.
A joint sponsor can be any U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or U.S. national who is at least 18 years of age, domiciled in the United States, or its territories or possessions, and willing to be held jointly liable with the petitioner for the support of the intending immigrant. A joint sponsor does not have to be related to the petitioning sponsor or the intending immigrant.
Up to two joint sponsors can help. However, even with a joint sponsor, the petitioning sponsor remains legally accountable for the financial support of the sponsored immigrant along with the joint sponsors. The petitioning sponsor must complete and submit a signed Form I-864 for the intending immigrant even if a joint sponsor will be used.
Here’s further explanation on the difference between a joint sponsor and household member.
How long am I responsible for the beneficiary?
A 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
Divorce does not terminate a sponsor’s obligations under Form I-864.
My relative will have a job upon arriving in the United States. Does he still need to submit Form I-864?
Yes. If your relative is obligated to submit Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, with his green card application, employment in the U.S. is not an exception. It’s the government’s hope that every intending immigrant who wants a job will find a job. But the government also wants a plan in place (Form I-864) should the intending immigrant need to rely on others.
I have obtained a joint sponsor, do I (the petitioner) still have to submit Form I-864 for my relative?
Yes. Even if you have obtained a joint sponsor to sponsor your relative, you are still obligated to submit an affidavit of support (including any required supporting documentation). You will remain the “petitioning sponsor” even though your relative has a joint sponsor.
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 accept the application or petition. We provide support for the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864), Petition to Help a Relative Obtain a Green Card (Form I-130), and several other immigration packages.
Note to Reader: This post was originally published on August 1, 2017, and has been modified with improvements.