The Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, is one of the most commonly required applications (and most difficult to understand) relating to the family-based lawful permanent resident process. As a general rule, in all family-based immigrant visa cases, the Petitioner/Sponsor must submit a Form I-864 or I-864EZ along with a current letter of employment (if applicable), and a copy of their Federal tax return and W-2s for the most recent tax year. There are a few limited exceptions to this general requirement.
Who doesn’t need a Sponsor?
In several cases, the applicant is not required to have a sponsor:
- Cuban Adjustment Act;
- Special immigrant juveniles;
- Diversity visa lottery;
- Asylees and refugees;
- Persons adjusting based on cancellation of removal or suspension of deportation;
- Widows and widowers based on prior marriage to a U.S. citizen;
- Battered spouses and children based on a relationship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who was responsible for the battery or extreme cruelty;
- Children deriving citizenship status pursuant to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (these applicants must file a Form I-864W);
- Derivative family members of employment based petitions;
- Nonimmigrant visa applicants (K and V visas) (K-1 visas are the exception to this rule and must have their U.S. citizen spouse filed an I-864);
- Intending immigrants who have already acquired 40 qualifying quarters.
Who is a Sponsor?
The Sponsor is the petitioning relative and must meet the following basic eligibility requirements:
(1) U.S. citizen, U.S. national or Lawful Permanent Resident;
(2) 18 years of age;
(3) Domiciled in the U.S. or a U.S. territory or possession;
(4) Must be an individual (not a corporation or entity).
What are my obligations as a Sponsor?
The sponsor must agree to support the sponsored immigrant at an annual income that is not less than 125% of the Federal Poverty line. The income eligibility requirements are found in the Poverty Guidelines (Form I-864P) and are updated annually. The sponsor must agree to reimburse the supporting agencies for any mean-tested benefits received by the sponsored immigrant. The sponsor must advise USCIS, via Form I-865, of any change of address within 30 days.
What can the Sponsor use at Income?
The sponsor can use their salary from their current income along with their retirement benefits, unemployment compensation, workman’s compensation or other taxable benefits. The sponsor cannot use any “means-tested” benefits, which include food stamps, SSI, or Medicaid.
Additionally, the sponsor can use “significant assets” which include savings accounts, stocks/bonds/CDs, real estate or other personal property that is readily convertible to cash within 12 months.
What if I can’t meet the income requirements?
If the petitioner/sponsor is unable to meet the financial requirements, there are two options:
(1) A Household Member/Co-Sponsor may file a Form I-864A or
(2) A Joint Sponsor may file a Form I-864.
Who is a Joint Sponsor?
The Joint Sponsor must meet the same eligibility requirements as the Sponsor and must meet the income requirement independently from the Sponsor. The Joint Sponsor must submit a current letter of employment, if applicable, along with a copy of their most recent Federal Tax Return and W-2s.
Who is a Substitute Sponsor?
The Substitute Sponsor must meet the same eligibility requirements as the Sponsor. The Substitute Sponsor takes the place of an original I-130 immigrant visa Petitioner who has died after the Form I-130 is approved, but before the immigrant/beneficiary obtains Lawful Permanent Resident status.
Who is a Household Member/Co-Sponsor?
This includes the Petitioner/Sponsor’s spouse and children, the intending immigrant or any “relative” (spouse, parent, child, adult son/daughter, or sibling) who lives in the Petitioner/Sponsor’s residence. Their income can be used to satisfy the I-864 if they are willing to be jointly responsible for the intending immigrant.
What are my obligations as a Joint Sponsor?
Joint Sponsor’s must be willing to accept joint and several liability for the support obligation. Joint liability means that the I-864 is enforceable against the Sponsor and the Joint Sponsor for a shared amount. Several liability means that the I-864 is enforceable against only the Sponsor or only the Joint Sponsor for the entire amount due.
When does my obligation end?
Your obligation as a Sponsor or Joint Sponsor ends when the immigrant/beneficiary:
- Accrues 40 qualifying quarters of work;
- Abandons LPR status;
- Or the affidavit is withdrawn prior to adjustment or consular processing.
It is important to remember that divorce does not end any payment obligations as a Sponsor, Joint Sponsor, Substitute Sponsor or Household Member. Federal, State or other entities can legally enforce the Form I-864 contract for all means-tested benefits paid to a beneficiary.
Nothing in this article should be taken as legal advice for an individual case or situation. The information is intended to be general and should not be relied upon for any specific situation. For legal advice, consult an attorney experienced in immigration law.
About Igbanugo Partners International Law Firm
Igbanugo Partners Int'l Law Firm is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It focuses on (1) U.S. immigration law and (2) international trade law in Sub-Saharan Africa.
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