What is the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864)?
The Affidavit of Support, known as Form I-864, is a United States immigration form that a sponsor must sign when agreeing to take financial responsibility for an applicant immigrating to the United States. When certain immigration applicants decide to apply for a United States immigration visa in order to live as lawful permanent residents and obtain their Green Card, they must have an existing U.S. citizen or Green Card holder, usually a relative, take financial responsibility for them until they receive a Green Card.
Who Submits an Affidavit of Support?
Usually, the sponsor is the same person who petitions for an immigrant visa on behalf of the applicant seeking to immigrate to the United States.
Family-Based Immigration Requirements
In cases where a petitioner filed the immigrant visa petition for his or her relative, the petition must be the immigration applicant’s sponsor. If the petitioner’s relative is a K-1 fiance(e), K-3 spouse, or K-2 or K-4 child, an affidavit of support does not need to be filed at the time Form I-129F is filed. An affidavit of support will need to be filed after the fiance(e), spouse, or child comes to the United States, at the time they adjust their status to permanent resident.
Age and Residency Requirements
A must be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in order to be a sponsor. The sponsor must typically live in the United States unless the sponsor’s residency abroad can be proven to be temporary and the sponsor still has domicile in the United States.
A sponsor must make a minimum income of equal to or higher than 125% of the U.S. poverty level for the sponsor’s household size. Sponsors who are active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces need only have an income equal to 100% of the U.S. poverty level for the household size if the immigrant the sponsor is sponsoring is the sponsor’s own spouse or child.
When a sponsor does not meet the income requirements, he or she may add the cash value of his or her assets to meet the income requirement of 125% of the U.S. poverty level. Additionally, a sponsor may meet the income requirement by counting the income and assets of members of the sponsor’s household who are related to the sponsor by birth, marriage, or adoption and are listed as dependents on the sponsor’s latest federal tax return. These relatives must complete Form I-864A, Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member.
A sponsor may not add a joint sponsor in order to meet the income requirements. The joint sponsor and the sponsor’s income are considered independently and are not combined.
A joint sponsor may sign the affidavit of support with the sponsor to accept the same obligations and requirements as the sponsor. Joint sponsors must meet the same income and other requirements independently, except the joint sponsor does not need to be related to the immigrant.
Substitute sponsors are necessary when the sponsor has died and the USCIS makes a decision to let the petition go forward. In such cases, an individual must be found who is willing to be a substitute sponsor and is related to the immigration applicant in a way that qualifies them to be a substitute sponsor. A substitute sponsor must also be at least 18 years old, living in the United States, a U.S. citizen or national or permanent resident, and must meet all income requirements. Substitute sponsors must also file Form I-864 to become a sponsor.
Relationships that qualify for substitute sponsorship include:
- Legal guardian of the immigration applicant
When is an Affidavit of Support Necessary?
An affidavit of support may be necessary for petitioners to fill out both for applications for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status. However, only certain immigrant visa or adjustment of status applicants are required to have an Affidavit of Support, including:
- Employment-based immigrants who had a U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative file the immigrant visa petition, or such relative has an ownership interest of 5% or more in the entity that filed the petition.
- All immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, including parents, spouses, and unmarried children under the age of 21, and relatives who qualify for immigration to the United States under a family-based preference (First Preference, Second Preference, Third Preference, Fourth Preference).
In some cases, an Affidavit of Support is not needed, or the need for one has expired because the sponsored individual becomes a U.S. citizen or has worked for a certain period. Below are some cases where an Affidavit of Support is not needed:
- The immigration applicant has earned or can be credited with 40 qualifying quarters of work (around 10 years) in the United States;
- The immigration applicant has an approved Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian Widow(er), or Special Immigrant as a self-petitioning widow or widower;
- The immigration applicant has an approved Form I-360 as a battered spouse or child;
- The immigration applicant is an orphan adopted by U.S. citizens and the orphan has been fully and formally adopted before he or she acquires permanent residence, and both adoptive parents have seen the child before or during the adoption;
- The immigration applicant is the child of a U.S. citizen and was admitted for permanent residence on or after February 27, 2001 and would automatically acquire citizenship under Section 230 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
What Does Financial Responsibility Require?
A sponsor who signs an Affidavit of Support is entering into a binding legal contract that requires the sponsor to accept the legal responsibility for financially supporting the sponsored immigrant. The sponsor holds this responsibility until the immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen, is credited with 40 quarters of work, is deceased, or is no longer a lawful permanent resident and has left the United States.
When a sponsored immigrant receives any form of means-tested public benefit, the sponsor is responsible for repaying the agency that provided them for the cost of the benefit. A failure to repay the agency benefits could cause the agency to sue the sponsor.
What is the Process for Filing an Affidavit of Support?
A sponsor for the immigration applicant must complete Form I-864, Affidavit of Support when the immigration applicant is scheduled for an immigrant visa interview at a Consulate or Embassy abroad, or when the immigration applicant is already in the United States and is ready to submit his or her application for adjustment to permanent resident status with the USCIS.
When filing Form I-864, any joint sponsor must submit the same form at the same time, and any related member of the household accepting responsibility and whose income will be considered must complete Form I-864A, Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member at the same time.
Form I-864 must be accompanied by required documentation, including proof of the sponsor’s current employment and his or her most recent U.S. federal income tax return. This information is necessary to approve the immigration applicant’s visa.
The affidavit must also be notarized in the United States or before a U.S. consular or immigration officer in order to be complete.
Once the Form I-864 is notarized and all documentation is together, the form should be provided to the immigration applicant to submit with his or her application for permanent resident status.