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Green Card Joint Sponsor Requirements

People ask us all the time how to fill out the I-864 as a joint sponsor. So we decided to definitively answer this question in this detailed guide.

Most immigrants enter the country on a family-sponsored visa. In this case, a family member who is a lawful permanent or U.S. citizen will file a visa petition for the hopeful applicant. In order to enter the U.S., the applicant must not be inadmissible. One way an immigrant can be inadmissible is if she is a “public charge.” If an immigrant is a public charge then, generally speaking, she is a burden on society. An applicant must prove she will not be a public charge.

This is done by acquiring financial sponsors, and in some cases joint sponsors, and having your sponsors file an I-864 verifying that you will not be a public burden. Joint sponsors are very similar to regular sponsors, so first we’ll discuss regualr sponsors, and then we’ll get to joint sponsors.

So, here’s how it is done.

(To find out how inadmissibility is affected by the 90-day rule, read this.)

Form I-864, Affidavit of Support

Section 213(a) of the INA requires an affidavit of support. USCIS has created this affidavit in the form of the I-864. This is a form filled out by the sponsors of a hopeful immigrant and is submitted with most family-sponsored applications. Its purpose is to show that there is sufficient financial support for the immigrant and that there will not be a need for financial assistance from the U.S.

Form I-864 is supported and included with SimpleCitizen.

Ways To Fill Out Form I-864

The I-864 comes with its own instructions, but those can be confusing. There are a few ways this form can be tackled:

Fill Out On a Computer

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SimpleCitizen’s Application Builder

Form I-864 is included with SimpleCitizen.

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Print the PDF and fill by hand with black pen.

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What is a Sponsor?

Obligations of an I-864 Sponsor

To become a sponsor is to accept a legal obligation with the U.S. government and with the intending immigrant. A sponsor agrees to financially support the intending immigrant. Essentially, the sponsor agrees to provide the difference between the wages earned by the immigrant and 125 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL).

This has a couple legal implications. First, if the immigrant does not make 125% FPL on their own, they can request or even sue a sponsor for that amount. Second, if the immigrant receives financial public assistance from a government agency, the sponsor may be requested to provide or sued for the amount equal to that assistance. This assistance may take the form of welfare, public housing, non-emergency Medicaid but does not include emergency Medicaid and short-term, non-cash emergency relief.

Additionally, a sponsor must inform USCIS within 30 of any changes of address after the application until the obligation ends.

Qualifying as a Sponsor

To qualify as a sponsor, there are four basic requirements. A sponsor must:

  • Be a US citizen
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be living in the US
  • Have an annual income of at least 125% of the federal poverty level

Oftentimes, the main discussion regarding sponsorship focuses on whether a sponsor’s income is sufficient, specifically, whether it’s 125 percent of the FPL. As shown, This is dependent on two factors:

  • Household size, and
  • Income.

The federal poverty level, often called the FPL, is dependent on the number of people in a household. It is determined by the Health and Human Services (HHS) each year. Below are the 2017 numbers defining the level; the 2018 numbers should be released in January 2018 and will likely be slightly higher.

  • $12,060 for individuals
  • $16,240 for a family of 2
  • $20,420 for a family of 3
  • $24,600 for a family of 4
  • $28,780 for a family of 5
  • $32,960 for a family of 6
  • $37,140 for a family of 7
  • $41,320 for a family of 8

A financial sponsor must have an income of at least 125 percent of the federal poverty level; listed below are the numbers indicating an income of 125 percent of the federal poverty level. Active military need only be 100 percent of the federal poverty level, and the levels are different for Alaska and Hawaii.

  • $12,060 for individuals
  • $16,240 for a family of 2
  • $20,420 for a family of 3
  • $24,600 for a family of 4
  • $28,780 for a family of 5
  • $32,960 for a family of 6
  • $37,140 for a family of 7
  • $41,320 for a family of 8

(These numbers come from the Form I-864P, HHS Poverty Guidelines for Affidavit of Support. Take a look if your household is larger than 8 people.)

Determining household size

The basic idea of household size is determining the number of people in your home. It seems simple, but it can become technical. To determine household size count:

  • You
  • Your spouse
  • Any children you have under the age of 21
  • Any other dependents you claimed on your most recent Federal income tax return
  • All lawful permanent residents you are currently sponsoring
  • All lawful permanent residents you are applying to sponsoring
  • (Optional) Other relatives living in your residence. Only include other relatives if you need to include their income.

Calculating Income

Again, the basic idea behind income is simple: it’s how much money a sponsor makes in a year. But it can become technical quick. To calculate a sponsor’s income add:

  • Annual income earned by the sponsor
  • Annual income earned by spouse
  • Annual Income earned by other dependents in the household
  • (Optional) Annual income earned by other relatives living in the sponsor’s residence
  • (Under limited circumstances)  Annual income earned in the U.S. by the intending immigrant and joined by a “Contract with Household Member.”

Income can include:

  • Wages
  • Salaries
  • Tips
  • Taxable interest
  • Ordinary dividends
  • Alimony or child support
  • Business income
  • Capital gains
  • Taxable IRA distributions
  • Taxable pensions and annuities
  • Rental income
  • Unemployment compensation
  • Workers compensation and disability
  • Taxable Social Security benefits

Means-tested public benefits like food stamps, SSI, Medicaid, TANF and CHIP can not be included.

In order to include the other relatives living at the sponsor’s residence, those members must complete a Form I-864A, Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member.  Each one of these individuals must be over 18 years of age.

Last resort: Assets

If, after adding together all the incomes of all the household members of the sponsor, the income is still insufficient, then assets can be considered.

To qualify, an asset must be convertible into cash within one year without being too difficult for the owner. Substantial evidence is required for assets to qualify. The net value of a house can be considered an asset; this equal to the appraised value of the home, minus all loans. The net value of a car may also be included, but the sponsor must show they own another car that is not included as an asset.

For assets to work, they must equal at least five times the difference between a sponsor’s total household income and the 125 percent mark.

Note: if your sponsor who filed the visa petition died, then you need to get a substitute sponsor to fill out I-864.

If your sponsor does not have sufficient funds to sponsor you financially, you need to find a joint sponsor.

Adding a Joint Sponsor with Form I-864

So, once financial sponsors have counted the people in their household, added up their annual income, and made the calculation to determine whether their income is at least 125 percent of the federal poverty level, they might find that their income just isn’t over 125 percent, no matter how it’s calculated.

If that’s the case, it is time to find a joint financial sponsor.

A joint sponsor is very similar to a regular financial sponsor. A joint sponsor must:

  • Be a US citizen
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be living in the US
  • Have annual income of at least 125% of the federal poverty level (FPL)

A joint sponsor does not need to be a relative of the primary sponsor or of the intending immigrant. The joint sponsor must fill out an additional I-864.

A joint sponsor’s income must independently be equal to 125 percent of the federal poverty level. The sum of the primary sponsor’s income and the joint sponsor’s income is unimportant. However, there can be up to two joint sponsors if more than one immigrant is coming; in that case, the incoming immigrants can be divided between the household sizes of the sponsors.

In most ways, a joint sponsor is treated very similarly to a sponsor.

Joint Sponsor forms are supported by SimpleCitizen.

Applying for a Green Card? Read this.

The end of the obligation

Financial sponsors aren’t obligated to care for the immigrant for the rest of existence. The obligation ends when the sponsored immigrant:

  • has worked ten full years
  • becomes a U.S. citizen
  • leaves the U.S. and no longer has permanent residence
  • dies
  • is deported and returns under a different sponsor.
  • Or, the sponsor dies.

What happens if my sponsor becomes unemployed after submitting the I-864?

If your sponsor or joint sponsor becomes unemployed after submitting the I-864 and before the intending immigrant’s approval, that is unfortunate. Technically, if after unemployment, the sponsored income is no longer above 125 percent, then USCIS will deny the application because the intending immigrant would become a public charge.

But don’t despair yet; if income is no longer sufficient because of a change, the intending immigrant can ask for additional time to find additional income or for the sponsor to find a new job. The Consulate or USCIS will generally give an additional six months to a year before an application is declared dead.

So, if possible, keep your job as a sponsor. Ideally, a sponsor will be able to show a stable work history, one suggests a sufficient income for the next 3-5 years. Switching jobs frequently or losing a job will place the intending immigrant in a “high risk” category, which may lead to a request for evidence or simply a denied visa.

Updated on January 15, 2020

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  1. My wife applied for visa to USA she’s Filipino.im American. Just had her interview. She was denied .said my income not enough. My wages were 18.600.my social security is 11.000. Whin gives me enough income. But interview officer would not count my social security. I read where social security is accepted…income is income. Can this happen to us?

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