U.S. immigration law requires intending immigrants in family-based visa categories to show that they have financial support in the United States. The U.S. citizen or permanent resident that petitions a family member for a green card also must file Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. The affidavit of support is a legal contract between the petitioner and the U.S. government. On Form I-864, petitioners must prove that they have the ability to financially support the visa applicant(s) if necessary. But the petitioner must also prove that his or her country of domicile is the United States.
In fact, there are three fundamental requirements for acting as the sponsor on the affidavit of support. 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.
If you’re planning to petition a family member for a green card, you’ll most likely need to file Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, and prove your U.S. domicile.
What is Country of Domicile on Form I-864, Affidavit of Support?
An I-864 sponsor must be domiciled in the United States. In very simple terms, U.S. domicile means that you live in the United States. More precisely, your principal residence must be located in the United States (to include the District of Columbia and U.S. territories), and you plan to maintain a principal residence in the U.S. for the foreseeable future. It’s okay to move to another state within the United States; the United States continues to be your domicile.
Temporary travel to another country does not disrupt your U.S. domicile. If you take a short vacation abroad or even visit family in another country for a couple of months, you continue to have a U.S. domicile as long as the United States remains your permanent home and you always intend to return.
For most people, this is straightforward. If you live at a U.S. address, your country of domicile is the United States. But for some people with employment overseas or lengthy visits abroad, it becomes more difficult to define and prove.
Living Abroad Temporarily
A U.S. citizen may live abroad, but it will create a challenge when proving your country of domicile is the United States. A lawful permanent resident may also have extended visits abroad to be with family members, business or other reasons. But “living” abroad or extensive trips can create additional problems for permanent residents (read more).
If you are not currently living in the United States, you must provide proof that your trip abroad is temporary and that your country of domicile remains the United States. Examples of proof include:
- Your voting record in the United States;
- Records of paying U.S. state or local taxes;
- Having property in the United States;
- Maintaining bank or investment accounts in the United States;
- Having a permanent mailing address in the United States; or
- Other proof such as evidence that you are a student studying abroad or that a foreign government has authorized a temporary stay.
Additional evidence that ties to the U.S. were maintained could include receipts for storage facilities in the U.S., subscriptions or contributions to organizations in the U.S., proof of visits to family and friends in the U.S., proof of having renewed a U.S. driver’s license, and even relevant correspondence with institutions, colleagues, family, and friends that communicates your intentions to return to the United States.
Some individuals employed abroad are automatically considered as domiciled in the United States because of the nature of their employment. The qualifying types of employment include employment by:
- The U.S. Government (including the U.S. armed forces);
- An American institution of research recognized by the Secretary of Homeland Security (see list of qualifying institutions);
- A U.S. firm or corporation engaged in whole or in part in the development of foreign trade and commerce with the United States, or a subsidiary of such a firm or corporation;
- A public international organization in which the United States participates by treaty or statute;
- A religious denomination having a bona fide organization in the United States, if the employment abroad involves the person’s performance of priestly or ministerial functions on behalf of the denomination; or
- A religious denomination or interdenominational missionary organization having a bona fide organization in the United States, if the person is engaged solely as a missionary.
U.S. Citizens Living Abroad
But what if you live abroad and don’t work for a qualifying employer and can’t prove U.S. domicile? Certain individuals may also be able to act as I-864 sponsors if they intend in good faith to reestablish domicile in the United States no later than the date of the intending immigrant’s admission or adjustment of status.
You must submit evidence that you’ve taken steps to establish that you will domicile in the United States at a time no later than the date of the intending immigrant’s admission or adjustment of status. Examples of acceptable evidence include a written job offer (and acceptance) from an employer in the United States, signing a lease or purchasing a residence in the United States, or enrolling children in U.S. schools. Closing foreign accounts and opening of accounts with U.S. institutions helps to support your claim to U.S. domicile.
Filing Form I-864 When U.S. Domicile Isn’t Straightforward
For individuals that do not have domicile clearly established in the United States, filing Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, can be more challenging. If you live abroad but still claim the United States as your country of domicile, you will need to submit a written explanation and documentary evidence along with your Form I-864. You must be able to prove that you are employed abroad by certain U.S.-related entities or that your absence from the United States is temporary. Country of domicile situations can be very complex and will be determined on case-by-case basis. Therefore, if your U.S. domicile is not straightforward, we recommend that you contact an immigration attorney before filing the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support.
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