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Affidavit of Support Guide to Understanding Form I-864

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Affidavit of Support Form I-864 Guide Relative Green Card US Immigrant Visa Permanent Resident

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What is an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864)?
If you are bringing a relative to live permanently in the United States (as a Green Card holder), you must accept legal responsibility for financially supporting this family member. You accept this responsibility and become your relative's sponsor by completing and signing a document called an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864). This legally enforceable responsibility lasts until your relative becomes a U.S. citizen or can be credited with 40 quarters of work (usually 10 years).


For Whom is an Affidavit of Support Required?
You must complete and submit an Affidavit of Support, USCIS Form I-864, if you are bringing a relative to the United States (which means that you filed or are filing a USCIS Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative or USCIS Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as Immediate Relative). For more information on bringing relatives to the United States, please see:

An Affidavit of Support, USCIS Form I-864, is required for all immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (which include parents, husbands and wives, and unmarried children under the age of 21, including orphans) and relatives who qualify for immigration to the United States under one of the family-based preferences:

First Preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. Adult means 21 years of age or older.

Second Preference: Spouses of legal permanent residents and the unmarried sons and daughters (regardless of age) of legal permanent residents and their unmarried children.

Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, their spouses and their unmarried minor children.

Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens, their spouses and their unmarried minor children.

You must also complete an I-864 Affidavit of Support if you are a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder (lawful permanent resident) and filed an employment-based immigration petition (USCIS Form I-140) for a relative or if you have a significant ownership interest (5 percent or more) in a business that filed an employment-based immigrant petition for your relative.

Persons whom the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has approved as self-petitioning widows or widowers or battered spouses and children are exempt from this Affidavit of Support requirement. (These individuals file USCIS Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er) or Special Immigrant. For more information, please see How Do I Apply for Immigration Benefits as a Battered Spouse Child or Parent?). Relatives who enter as refugees or asylees also do not require an Affidavit of Support. For more information, please see Green Card for a Refugee or How Do I Apply for Asylum in the U.S.?

All relatives for whom you file a separate I-130 or I-140 petition must have an original I-864 Affidavit of Support and accompanying documentation. You may submit photocopies of the Affidavit of Support you complete for your relative for any husband, wife, or children immigrating with your relative and listed on the petition. You do not need to photocopy the accompanying documentation for these family members.

Other types of aliens, including parolees, students, and diversity immigrants are not sponsored using Form I-864. A different Affidavit of Support (USCIS Form I-134) is used for these aliens if an immigration or consular officer requires it.


Affidavit of Support Income Requirements and Eligibility Requirements
To sponsor a relative for a Green Card (immigration) with a valid Affidavit of Support, you must be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or a Green Card holder (legal permanent resident). You must have a domicile in the United States or a territory or possession of the United States. Usually, this requirement means you must actually live in the United States, or a territory or possession, in order to be a sponsor. If you live abroad, you may still be eligible to be a sponsor if you can show that your residence abroad is temporary, so that you still have your domicile in the United States.

  • If you are a US Citizen you may petition for the following foreign national relatives to immigrate to the United States; however you must be able to provide proof of the relationships:
    • Husband or wife;
    • Unmarried child under 21 years old;
    • Unmarried son or daughter over 21;
    • Married son or daughter of any age;
    • Brother or sister, if you are at least 21 years old; or
    • Parent, if you are at least 21 years old
  • If you are a Green Card holder (lawful permanent resident) you may petition for the following foreign national relatives to immigrate to the United States; however you must be able to provide proof of the relationships:
    • Husband or wife; or
    • Unmarried son or daughter of any age

You also must meet certain income requirements. You must show that your household income is equal to or higher than 125 percent of the U.S. poverty level for your household size. Your household size includes you, your dependents, any relatives living with you, and the immigrants you are sponsoring. For example, if you have a spouse and two children and you want to sponsor your brother and his wife, you must prove that your household income is equal to or higher than 125% of the U.S. poverty level for a family of six, or $36,912 from the 2009 Poverty Guidelines (1-page PDF, 23k). You must also include in your household size any immigrants (Green Card holders) you previously sponsored under this part of the law. In the above example, if you had previously sponsored your parents and your sister, your household size would be nine persons and you would need a household income of $50,937 ($46,262 + $4,675).

If you, the sponsor, are on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States, and the immigrant you are sponsoring is your wife, husband, or child, your income only needs to equal 100 percent of the U.S. poverty level for your family size.

If you cannot meet the minimum income requirements using your earned income, you have various options:

  • You may add the cash value of your assets such as money in savings accounts, stocks, bonds, and property. You may not include the value of your primary residence. To determine the amount of assets required to qualify, subtract your household income from the minimum income requirement (125 percent of the poverty level for your family size). You must prove the cash value of your assets is worth five times this difference (the amount left over).

    For example, if your income is $24,000 and you have a 125 percent of poverty guideline of $27,562, the difference is $ 3,562. Multiply that by 5, and the minimum required cash value of your assets would be $17,810.

  • However, if you are a U.S. citizen and you are sponsoring your wife, husband, or minor child, the total value of your assets must only be equal to at least three times the difference. If the intending immigrant is an alien orphan who will be adopted in the United States after the alien orphan acquires permanent residence, and who will, as a result, acquire citizenship, the total value of your assets need only equal the difference.

  • You may count the income and assets of members of your household who are related to you by birth, marriage, or adoption. To use their income you must have listed them as dependents on your most recent federal tax return or they must have lived with you for the last 6 months. They must also complete a USCIS Form I-864A, Contract between Sponsor and Household Member. If the relative you are sponsoring meets these criteria, you may include the value of their income and assets, but the immigrant does not need to complete Form I-864A unless he or she has accompanying family members.

  • You may count the assets of the relatives you are sponsoring.

  • You may have a joint sponsor. A joint sponsor is someone who is willing to accept legal responsibility for supporting your family member with you. A joint sponsor must meet all the same requirements as you, except the joint sponsor does not need to be related to the immigrant. The joint sponsor (or the joint sponsor and his or her household) must reach the 125 percent income requirement alone. You cannot combine your income with that of a joint sponsor to meet the income requirement.


How Do I File Affidavit of Support Form I-864?

You should complete an USCIS I-864 Affidavit of Support when your relative has been scheduled for an immigrant visa interview with a consular officer overseas or when your relative is about to submit an application for adjustment to permanent resident status with USCIS or with an Immigration Court in the United States. If you have a joint sponsor, the joint sponsor must also complete the USCIS Form I-864 Affidavit of Support at this time. If you are using the income of other household members to qualify, then each household member who is accepting legal responsibility for supporting your relative must complete a separate USCIS Form I-864A, Contract between Sponsor and Household Member.

The USCIS Forms I-864 and I-864A include instructions and a checklist for the supporting documents that you must include with the Affidavit of Support. It is important that you read the instructions carefully and submit all required documentation.

You are required to provide U.S. federal income tax returns for the 3 most recent tax years as well as proof of current employment. If you were not required to file a tax return in any of these years you must provide an explanation. Failure to provide either tax returns or a satisfactory explanation will delay action on your relative's Green Card application for permanent residence and, if not provided, will result in denial of a Green Card (immigrant visa or adjustment of status).

When you have completed the I-864 Affidavit of Support, compiled the necessary documentation, and had the affidavit 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 are My Responsibilities as the Sponsor of a Green Card for My Relative?
When you sign the Affidavit of Support, you accept legal responsibility for financially supporting the sponsored immigrant(s) until they become U.S. citizens or can be credited with 40 quarters of work. Any joint sponsors or household members whose income is used to meet the minimum income requirements are also legally responsible for financially supporting the sponsored immigrant. If the immigrant receives any "means-tested 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 can sue you in court to get the money owed. When in doubt, ask the benefit provider whether the benefit is a "means-tested public benefit."

Currently, federal means-tested public benefits include Food Stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the State Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP). States and local jurisdictions may also designate certain of their programs as means-tested public benefits.

The following types of programs are not counted as means-tested public benefits: emergency Medicaid; short-term, non-cash emergency relief; services provided under the National School Lunch and Child Nutrition Acts; immunizations and testing and treatment for communicable diseases; student assistance under the Higher Education Act and the Public Health Service Act; certain forms of foster-care or adoption assistance under the Social Security Act; Head Start programs; means-tested programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; and Job Training Partnership Act programs.


What If My Address Changes?
If you change your address after you become a sponsor, you are required by law to notify the USCIS within 30 days by filing USCIS Form I-865, Sponsor's Notice of Change of Address. If you fail to notify USCIS of your change of address, you may be fined.


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