The immigration lawyers in our Los Angeles office are inundated with questions about the I-864 or Affidavit of Support. And the I-864 is the source of frequent Requests for Evidence (RFEs) from USCIS and the National Visa Center (NVC).
If you’re sponsoring a family member for a green card or filing a visa petition, you’ve probably come across the I-864 and wondered how to answer some of the more the Affidavit of Support’s more technical questions. Here our immigration lawyers explain the basics.
What is the I-864 or Affidavit of Support?
The I-864 is a binding, legal contract between you and the U.S. government that obligates you, under certain conditions, to financially support the person who is seeking a green card. By signing the I-864, you are “on the hook” or financially responsible for the person whose green card you’re sponsoring in several circumstances.
- You can find the I-864, Affidavit of Support and the instructions here.
What financial responsibilities come along with I-864?
When you sign the I-864, you become legally obligated to:
- financially maintain the person who is applying for permanent residency at 125% of Federal Poverty Guideline; and
- reimburse a U.S. government agency for the green card holder’s use of certain means-tested benefits such as Food Stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF), or the State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
- report any change of address by filing Form I-865, Sponsor Notice of Change of Address for as long as the I-864 – Affidavit of Support remains valid.
How long do the sponsor’s I-864 Affidavit of Support obligations last?
The I-864 is a serious financial commitment and remains valid for the green card holder’s entire life. But, the Affidavit of Support’s obligation terminate if the beneficiary or green card holder:
- obtains a U.S. citizenship;
- Works for 40 quarters;
- abandons residency and departs the U.S.; or
- gets an order of deportation
What happens to the I-864 Affidavit of Support when a divorce happens?
Most people are completely astonished to learn that a divorce does not terminate the I-864 financial obligations! This means after a marriage is legally terminated through divorce, the spouse and possibly a joint sponsor remain on the hook to pay the green card holder-spouse financial support equal to 125% of the federal poverty line. Obviously, an I-864 has a huge impact on divorce settlement negotiations because it affects spousal support and estate dissolution.
How much money do you have to make satisfy the I-864 sponsorship requirements?
The immigration lawyers in our Los Angeles office can affirm that USCIS will not approve the Affidavit of Support unless the sponsor has income equal to least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for your household size, calculating the beneficiary as a member of your household.
- Be careful! Household size refers to all the people for whom you are financially responsible, and sometimes this can include people who don’t live in your physical house with you. Additionally, not all the people living with you need to be included in your household size.
- Form I-864P lays out the 2016 Federal Poverty Guidelines and this should be your guide for determining the minimum amount of money you need to make. These are updated every year, so you should be sure to check USCIS’ I-864P page to make sure you’re using the most up-to-date edition of the form.
For I-864 Affidavit of Support purposes, how do I calculate my earnings?
On the I-864, the U.S. government wants you to list your current individual income. But they also want you to be able to prove how much you make. It can cause delays and possibly a Request For Evidence (RFE) if you list an income that you don’t support with adequate documentation.
- Unless there has been a change in your income, you want to indicate on the I-864 that your current annual income is the amount listed as your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) from the previous year’s federal tax returns (Form 1040) and submit the IRS transcript from at least the most recent year’s federal tax returns.
To support the I-864 Affidavit of Support, what types of documents do I need to submit to prove my earnings?
Where I-864 sponsorship is straightforward and can simply be calculated by using the sponsor’s income, the immigration lawyers in our office recommend that you submit your IRS federal tax transcripts and IRS wage transcripts for the past 3 years.
Why do our immigration attorneys suggest recommend using IRS tax transcripts with the I-864 Affidavit of Support? Aren’t copies of your tax returns sufficient?
Our immigration attorneys prefer tax transcripts because:
- They’re consolidated (i.e. fewer pages to read);
- They’re easier to read (i.e. easier to figure out what’s going on); and
- They prove definitively that you’ve filed your taxes and not just filled out the forms.
When the sponsor has recently changed jobs, the most useful types of proof that will show USCIS that you have the ability to maintain sufficient income are:
- A letter from your employer indicating your start date and salary; and
- Pay stubs going back 6 months.
What if you don’t make enough money to fulfill the Affidavit of Support, I-864 requirements for sponsors?
If you don’t meet the individual income requirements outlined in the Federal Poverty Guidelines for your household size, then here are some other solutions:
- You can have another person act as your joint sponsor;
- You can, in certain circumstances use the income or assets of other people in your household to help you meet the minimum requirement;
- Or, if the beneficiary is your spouse and meets certain circumstances you can use his or her income or assets to meet the minimum requirement;
- Or, you can use other types of resources like assets, social security earnings, or investment earnings, to prove that you can meet the minimum requirement.
How does joint sponsor help an I-864 get approved?
A joint sponsor signs a separate I-864 Affidavit of Support and thereby, makes a contract with the U.S. government to be held jointly liable with the petitioner for financially supporting the beneficiary at 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines and repaying the U.S. government for the beneficiary’s use of certain means-tested benefits.
The joint sponsor must be:
- A Lawful Permanent Resident (a green card holder) or a U.S. citizen;
- At least 18 years old; and
- A resident of the United States (those living abroad are disqualified).
The joint sponsor does NOT have to be a relative of the sponsor or beneficiary.
Can you satisfy the I-864 sponsorship if you earned enough last year, but now are unemployed?
Unfortunately, if you are unemployed, you will not meet the I-864 requirements. Typically, you’ll need a joint sponsor.
How do you handle the I-864 if you haven’t filed your income taxes?
If you are going to be a sponsor or a joint sponsor and you were supposed to file federal income tax returns for any of the past 3 years but didn’t do this, you have to correct this before you can act as a sponsor. But if you weren’t required to file federal taxes because your income was too low, then you can explain that on your application, and you’ll need a joint sponsor.
- If you’re living abroad and you’re a U.S. citizen or green card holder, you’re generally still required to file your U.S. federal income taxes.
How many I-864 joint sponsors can I have?
You can have up to two joint sponsors.
Will the I-864 be approved if you, the sponsor, is living abroad?
The I-864 sponsor must be “domiciled” in the U.S. in order to be a sponsor. This means that the United States has to be the location of your “principal residence” (the place where you live most of the time) and where you intend to maintain such residence for the foreseeable future.
If you plan to move back to the U.S. and establish a domicile in the U.S. in conjunction with the approval of beneficiary’s visa petition, then you will need to provide the consulate with proof that you have taken specific steps towards leaving the foreign country to relocate to the U.S. permanently.
Work with a Los Angeles Immigration Lawyer to help you with the I-864 Affidavit of Support
The I-864 is complex. If this affidavit of support form is not done properly, USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE), which will delay your green card and work permit. Fortunately, Attorney Joshua Goldstein and his team of immigration lawyers can help! Based on our extensive experience in countless immigration cases, we can prepare your case so that the process goes smoothly. Our lawyers can take the stress out of the immigration process.
To speak with Attorney Goldstein about your legal needs, call 213-262-2000 or fill out our convenient contact form and book a consultation today.