Part of the green card process for family-based green card applications is filing the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. Form I-864, Affidavit of Support is one of the most difficult forms to file in the Green Card application process. It can be difficult to understand why it exists, what USCIS is looking for, when it is required, and for whom. This article will provide you with details regarding what a financial sponsor is, what the requirements are for a financial sponsor and how USCIS determines if someone meets the requirements, and when a household member or joint sponsor is needed.
What is Form I-864, Affidavit of Support?
Form I-864 is a contract between the person who files of the form (the sponsor) and the United States Government. Anyone who fills, signs, and submits the form on behalf of an intending immigrant becomes a sponsor and is held to this contract.
The primary aim of this contract is to provide USCIS with proof that the sponsor has sufficient financial means to support the applicant, in a case where they may ever need financial support By signing Form I-864, the sponsor is agreeing to use their financial resources to support the intending immigrant affidavit, if it becomes necessary. One of the primary reasons USCIS requires this is to protect the U.S. government from people entering the United States and then using government financial resources.
Another important point to be aware of is that by filing this form, the intending immigrant may become ineligible for certain means-tested (finance-based) public benefits offered on Federal, State, or Local levels.
Should the applicant/beneficiary ever use these public benefits, it is within the rights of the agency providing the benefit to require the sponsor to repay the costs of the benefits used, as per the conditions of the contract. In cases where the benefit is not repaid, the agency is able to sue the sponsor . While this is extremely uncommon, it is a risk all sponsors should be aware of.
For more information regarding which benefits are considered, please see the I-864P Poverty Guideline page.
How Long does the I-864 Contract Last:
The contract between the sponsor and the US government begins the moment USCIS receives the Form I-864 and does not end until at least one of the following conditions has been met:
- The beneficiary gains U.S. Citizenship
- The beneficiary has worked in the US for at least 10 years
- The beneficiary leaves the US permanently and loses their Permanent Resident status.
Who Files Form I-864, Affidavit of Support?
Form I-864 must be submitted by all applicants seeking a green card benefit through connection to a family member. In other words, all family-petitioned (and even some employment-petitioned) applications are required, by law, to include Form I-864 at some point throughout the green card application process. For individuals going through the consular process abroad, this is done along with the DS-260. For those applying to adjust status within the United States, this is done along with submission of the Form I-485.
All family-based petitioners, regardless of income or employment, are required to file Form I-864 on behalf of the relative they are petitioning. In other words, they must accept a degree of financial responsibility for that relative by submitting Form I-864. However, in situations where the petitioner does not meet the income requirement, USCIS requires that another sponsor be added. This individual can be either a household member of the petitioning sponsor or they can be a joint sponsor. Anyone whose income is being used to meet the income requirements set forth by USCIS automatically accepts the agreed upon financial responsibility for the applicant/beneficiary.
There are certain exemptions to the rules listed above, which can be found on pages 1 and 2 of the Form I-864 Instructions.
Do I meet the requirements to be the financial sponsor?
As mentioned above, it is important to remember that the petitioner via Form I-130 is REQUIRED to file the financial affidavit regardless of if they meet the financial requirements or not. By doing so they are accepting the financial responsibility over the intending immigrant. However, if the financial requirements are not met another sponsor will need to be added in addition to the petitioning sponsor. Let’s take a deeper look into what that looks like.
There are four requirements to qualify as a financial sponsor:*
- They must be a US citizen or a legal permanent resident (green card holder)
- They must be at least 18 years old
- They must be domiciled in the US
- They must have an annual income over 125% the federal poverty level. This amount varies depending on family size. You can check the USCIS guidelines here. In 2022 the required income for a household of 2 is $24,650.
*Please note that despite what is outlined in USCIS policy, we are seeing the following circumstances result in greater scrutiny from USCIS and higher rates of receiving a Request for Evidence even if the sponsor’s income was 125% or more of the poverty line:
Income Close to the Required Level/Lack of Proof
- USCIS always highly scrutinizes proof of income, but especially if the income is close to the required income. In these cases a detailed letter from the employer and six months of pay stubs showing consistent income can help, but in some circumstances a joint sponsor may also be recommended.
Self- Employed Sponsors
- Self-employment is often harder to prove to USCIS. Where typical W2 employment typically can prove both historic and future income via pay stubs and employer letter, self-employment often shows historic income, but doesn’t create as strong of proof of future income. If USCIS feels that the income from self-employment is not stable enough to sponsor an immigrant long-term they are very likely to send an RFE requesting a joint sponsor.
- Retired sponsor’s must add sufficient evidence of their retirement income via retirement or Social Security statements. Inability to provide these documents will lead to greater scrutiny.
Lack of Income History
- Even if a sponsor’s current income meets the level required by USCIS, a lack of strong income history may cause USCIS to doubt the sponsor’s ability to financially provide. It is especially common if the total income from the most recent tax year was below 125% of the poverty guideline.
In instances where the sponsor falls into one of the four listed categories, we have seen applicants experience the most success when they add an additional sponsor to the application.
There are two main ways in which someone can be added as an additional sponsor to an application. We are going to take a look at both types of sponsors so that it is clear who qualifies as an additional sponsor and which type of additional sponsor they would be.
A household member is a sibling, parent, or adult child with the same principal residence as the petitioning sponsor. When their income is used for financial support on the application they file the I-864A, Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member.
The difference of filing as a household member instead of a joint sponsor is that instead of having to independently meet the income threshold, their income will be combined with the petitioning sponsor and USCIS will make their decision based on the total household income.
For example, If Robert is sponsoring his wife for a green card and has an annual income of $10,000 and his father, Mark, who lives with them, agrees to financially sponsor as well then his income of $40,000 would be added together and USCIS would consider the $50,000 of household income.
A joint sponsor is someone who helps the primary sponsor to satisfy the financial requirements of sponsorship. While both the petitioning sponsor and the joint sponsor will be required to file Form I-864, USCIS will make a decision regarding the joint sponsor’s income independent of the petitioning sponsor.
For example, If Robert is sponsoring his wife for a green card and has an annual income of $10,000 and John, a family friend, agrees to financially sponsor as well and his income is $40,000 then, when reviewing John’s form, USCIS would consider only John’s income $40,000 when deciding whether he is eligible to act as a sponsor.
The financial sponsorship forms are considered to be some of the most complicated and highly scrutinized by USCIS. It’s important to be thorough and provide evidence that is as clear as possible.
Having the guidance of a licensed immigration attorney can be extremely helpful, especially when filing form I-864. If you are interested in getting the peace of mind that comes from legal support without the high cost of a conventional immigration lawyer, SimpleCitizen partners with a network of independent attorneys who offer their legal guidance and recommendations.
Here at SimpleCitizen we offer the ability to send joint sponsor’s a private link that will retrieve all of the information needed and complete the required documents for the sponsor.
If you have any other questions about a sponsor feel free to use our live chat.
Click here for information about sponsors from the USCIS website.