Updated: Feb. 7, 2020
Do you have a family member that is applying for legal permanent residency?
Are you going to be the sponsor? Do you meet all the requirements to be a sponsor?
This guide will help you figure out if you meet the requirements for being a sponsor.
What is a financial sponsor?
Being a financial sponsor to an immigrant means the U.S. Government will consider your income and assets (such as checking and savings accounts, stocks, bonds, or property) as available to support the potential immigrant.
Who can sponsor? Who needs a sponsor?
You may sponsor a relative, an employee, or a prospective or currently adopted child wishing to immigrate to the United States. If you filed an immigrant visa petition for your relative, you must be the sponsor.
Anyone applying to be a permanent resident through a family member must have a financial sponsor. A sponsor is also required for a family member coming to work for a relative, or for a company in which a relative owns 5 percent or more of the company.
Am I eligible to become a sponsor?
To qualify to be a financial sponsor for a green card applicant, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
- You must have a domicile in either the U.S. or a U.S. territory or possession (i.e. you must live there).
- You must prove an income level at or above 125 percent of the Federal poverty level (100 percent for active duty military personnel).
- You must submit an affidavit of support, which can be done by submitting Form I-864.
Income requirement to be a financial sponsor?
You must prove an income level at or above 125 percent of the Federal poverty level. (For active duty military personnel, the income requirement is 100 percent of the poverty level when sponsoring a husband, wife, or children.) Federal poverty levels are updated each year by the Department of Health and Human Services.
You can check current minimums at their website at www.aspe.hhs.gov.
What is Form I-864?
Form I-864 acts as an affidavit of support, which is a document an individual signs to accept financial responsibility for another person, usually a relative, who is coming to the United States to live permanently. The form proves that the immigrant has the financial means to live in the United States without needing welfare or financial benefits from the U.S. government. The person who signs the affidavit of support becomes the sponsor of the relative (or other individual) coming to live in the United States. The sponsor is usually the petitioner of an immigrant petition for a family member.
As the sponsor, you should fill out Form I-864 when your relative is about to submit an application for adjustment to permanent resident status with the USCIS or with an Immigration Court in the United States.
What if I don’t meet the financial requirements?
If your income alone does not meet the requirement, your assets (such as checking and savings accounts, stocks, bonds, or property) may be considered in determining your financial ability. You may also submit the I-864 as a joint sponsor or a substitute sponsor.
What is a joint sponsor?
A joint sponsor is someone who is willing to accept legal responsibility for supporting your immigrating family member with you. A joint sponsor must meet all the same requirements as you; however, the joint sponsor does not need to be related to the immigrant.
The joint sponsor (or his or her household) must reach the 125% income requirement alone. You cannot combine your income with that of a joint sponsor to meet the income requirement.
Does a joint sponsor also need to fill out I-864?
Yes, a joint sponsor must also fill out Form I-864. Additionally, if you are using the income of other household members to qualify, then each household member must complete a separate Form I-864A.
What documentation do I need to fill out Form I-864?
You must provide the following documentation to fill out Form I-864:
- Your U.S. federal income tax return for the most recent tax year.
- Proof of current employment.
How do I submit Form I-864
Upon completing Form I-864, compiling the necessary documentation, and having the affidavit (or form I-864) notarized in the United States or before a U.S. consular or immigration officer, you should provide this packet of information to your relative to submit with his or her application for permanent resident status. If you are given specific instructions to file your affidavit of support directly with the National Visa Center, you should follow those instructions.
What is the cost to submit Form I-864?
There is no filing fee. However, the National Visa Center (NVC) does send the sponsor a processing fee before the case will be processed.
How long am I responsible for the immigrant?
The sponsor’s legal financial responsibility usually lasts until the immigrant either becomes a U.S. citizen, can be credited with 40 quarters of work (usually 10 years), leaves the U.S. permanently, or dies.
Do I need to inform USCIS if I move or change addresses as a sponsor?
Yes, by legal requirement. If you change your address, you will need to file a Form I-865, Sponsor’s Notice of Change of Address, within 30 days after the date of your move.
What if I fail to provide financial support?
An affidavit of support is legally enforceable against a sponsor. If a sponsor does not provide basic support to the immigrants they sponsor, the individuals sponsored may receive “means-tested public benefits.” If the individual you sponsored receives any of these public benefits, you are responsible for repaying the cost of those benefits to the agency that provided them. If you do not repay the debt, the agency or sponsored immigrants can sue you in court to receive the money owed. When the immigrant sues, he or she can collect enough money to bring his or her income up to 125% of the amount listed in the U.S. government’s Poverty Guidelines.
Additionally, bankruptcy does not necessarily terminate a sponsor’s I-864 obligations. While most debts and contractual obligations are dischargeable in bankruptcy, “domestic support obligations” are not dischargeable. Such obligations are defined as alimony, maintenance, or support owed to or recoverable by one’s spouse, former spouse, or child. By United States court decisions, these also include I-864 support obligations.
Forms for Financial Sponsorship
- Form I-864 | Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA
- Form I-864A | Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member
- Form I-864EZ | Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act
- Form I-864P | HHS Poverty Guidelines for Affidavit of Support
- Form I-864W | Request for Exemption for Intending Immigrant’s Affidavit of Support
Additional Facts and Data
- Of all 2015 accepted Green Card applicants, 44% were immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, 20% were other family members of citizens and lawful permanent residents, 14% were individuals in employment-related cases, 11% were refugees, and 3% were individuals granted asylum, according to a Pew Research Center study.
- Each year, the USCIS receives and processes about 6 million immigration applications from individuals and employers. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the United States issued green cards to nearly 1 million applicants in 2013. This number has remained relatively constant throughout the following years.