If you have invited a foreign friend or relative to visit you, one of the first issues to address is whether that person will be able to prove to the satisfaction of a U.S. consular officer that he or she can afford the trip. If not, that is, if you think that the person will have trouble showing the ability to cover the various expenses involved, you may want to consider providing a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Form I-134, Affidavit of Support. By signing an I-134, you agree to financially support a foreign visitor during his or her stay in the United States.
This article will provide information to assist you in filling out Form I-134 to help foreign visitors applying for a tourist or other nonimmigrant visa. If you are a U.S. citizen who will need to submit Form I-134 along as a part of a K visa application for a foreign fiancé, you can find more specific advice at “Tips on Filling Out Form I-134 for the Fiance Visa.” Or if you are sponsoring a relative for a green card, you can find helpful information at “Filling Out Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act.”
Who Should Submit Form I-134
Under U.S. immigration law, noncitizens traveling to the United States are inadmissible if they are “likely to become a public charge.” This means that unless they can show that they have enough money to pay for their expenses (such as food, lodging, transportation, and any emergency medical treatment), they will not be able to obtain a visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate or may be denied entry at the border if vising the U.S. on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
However, noncitizens can overcome this finding if a lawfully admitted U.S. resident or U.S. citizen prepares Form I-134 for them to show at their visa interview or to a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official.
What Are the Risks to Submitting Form I-134?
When you complete and sign Form I-134, you are assuring the U.S. government that the nonimmigrant whom you are sponsoring should not need to apply for public assistance, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps, or any other government-subsidized benefit. If your foreign visitor does eventually apply for and receive public assistance, the responsible government agency can take your income and/or assets into consideration when deciding whether to grant the benefits. Also, the government can sue you to recover the cost of providing public assistance to your relative.
However, the “temporary” affidavit of support on Form I-134 is often called “unenforceable” compared to its longer-lasting counterpart, Form I-864, which U.S. citizens and permanent residents submit when sponsoring their foreign relatives for a green card. There are a few reasons why the I-134 is called “unenforceable:”
- Visitors to the U.S. are not eligible for the vast majority of government-sponsored public assistance benefits and if they apply, in most cases, they will be denied.
- Most government agencies do not have the time or resources to enforce the terms of an I-134 if a temporary visitor DOES obtain public assistance.
- The I-134 sponsor is agreeing to support the nonimmigrant for only a limited and specific period of time, so any potential liability is limited to the planned duration of the visit.
In other words, Form I-134 is all bark and no bite, legally speaking. It is basically used to show immigration officials that the indigent noncitizen has a friend in the U.S. earning a respectable income who is willing to take care of him or her.
Preparing Form I-134
You will be asked to provide information about your bank accounts, assets, employment, and other financial resources and you must show that your income is at least 100% of the amounts listed in the federal Poverty Guidelines for your family size and your state of residence.
Question 1: In the first paragraph, fill out your name and address. List your date and place of birth here. If you are anything other than a U.S. citizen by birth, you will need to provide additional information on one of lines a through e. If you received your U.S. citizenship through naturalization, from your parents, via a qualifying marriage, or through any other means, list the requested information on lines a, b, or c. If you are a green card holder, provide your alien registration number (“A number”) on line d. If you are a lawfully admitted nonimmigrant, put the number on your I-94 arrival/departure record on line e.
Question 2: Here you will state your age and the date you started living in the United States. If you have lived in the U.S. during several different periods, give the date you started living in the U.S. most recently.
Question 3: Provide personal information about the noncitizen that you are sponsoring and any spouse or children who will be traveling with him or her (or coming to join him or her later). While you should list personal information for each family member who will be traveling to the U.S., note that you will need to submit a separate Form I-134 for each noncitizen that you are sponsoring.
Questions 4-6: These questions are not really questions, but you should read them carefully, as they describe the responsibility you are taking on by signing Form I-134. You are instructed that you may be required to post a bond, but this never happens with the sponsorship of nonimmigrants. Documentation of your employment, income, and financial accounts is sufficient for the purposes of sponsoring a temporary visitor to the United States.
Question 7: First, list your place of employment. For “type of business,” you can put a general description such as “food services” or you can list your position (such as “assistant manager” or “paralegal”).
Next, you will need to document your income and assets. If your salary is more than 100% of the Poverty Guidelines for your family size, you technically do not need to provide information about your assets, but it doesn’t hurt to at least provide information for a bank account or two just to be safe. If you do not have sufficient income, then you must be more diligent about listing plenty of assets to show that you have property of value that can be used to support your noncitizen visitor. If you are unemployed or have low income, you may want to consider having another person complete Form I-134, if available. You will be asked to provide an amount “on deposit in savings banks in the United States,” but it’s fine to provide information about checking accounts, certificates of deposit, and other accounts with cash on deposit. If you are listing “personal property,” you can give an approximate value of vehicles, jewelry, appliances, and any other assets you would like the government to consider as your property.
Question 8: Provide information for any dependents you have listed on your U.S. federal income tax return. If you are a nonresident who pays taxes overseas, you should list any minor children or adults for which you have been appointed guardian.
Question 9: The U.S. government wants to know if you have sponsored any other noncitizens in the past and if you are still under an obligation to support them. You should list any noncitizens for whom you have completed either a Form I-134 or Form I-864. The U.S. embassy or consulate will consider whether you are financially capable of supporting all of the noncitizens you have sponsored.
Question 10: If you have ever filed a visa petition to bring a noncitizen to the U.S. (such as a K fiancé visa or by submitting an I-130, Petition for Alien Relative), list the name, relationship, and date of application(s) here.
Question 11: You should check “intend” here and provide information about the extent of support you will provide your foreign visitor. For example, if you are inviting your cousin to visit your home in the U.S. for two weeks you should write: “I will furnish room and board and provide money for food, entertainment, and any necessary medical expenses for the duration of her visit.” If you plan on providing your visitor with a stipend, you can write “I will provide a lump sum of $1,000 for any expenses during her visit.”
Oath or Affirmation of Sponsor: Make sure to sign and date Form I-134 here.
Documents to Attach to Form I-134
You should also attach evidence to show your income. In most cases it will be enough to provide a copy of your most recent federal income tax form (or tax transcript), but you may also want to include a letter from your employer and your bank to confirm your employment and money on deposit in U.S. bank accounts. Make sure you provide two copies of any documentation you submit with Form I-134 (and keep a copy for your own records). Here is some evidence others have used to successfully show that they are able to support a noncitizen visitor:
- Evidence of most recent federal income tax return. The best evidence is an IRS tax transcript, an official summary of your tax return. Information on ordering a tax transcript can be found on the IRS website, but if you are under a time crunch, you can submit a personal copy of your signed tax return. Copies of state returns are not necessary.
- Employer letter. This letter will ideally be on official company letterhead and drafted and signed by a human resources official or your boss or employer. Make sure it includes a recent date, the date of hire and length of employment, the nature of your position, (If your job is full-time and permanent, make sure he or she makes a note of that!), and your yearly salary.
- Letter from bank(s) confirming the account(s). You should ask any banks that you have listed in Question 7 to confirm your account by providing a letter on official letterhead. This letter will usually state the date the account was opened, the total cash deposit in the last year, the average balance, and the current balance. If your average balance is much lower than your current balance, it may look suspicious, so you might want to ask the bank to leave your average balance off the letter if that is the case. You may also provide recent bank statements.
- Deeds or receipts for any assets. Chances are that you will not need this documentation if you are only sponsoring a noncitizen during a visit on a temporary visa. However, if you want to bolster the evidence of your financial situation, you could include copies of titles and deeds for vehicles, residences, and other property, as well as receipts for appliances, electronics, or any big ticket items.
What Will Happen Next
Do not mail Form I-134 to USCIS or any other government agency. You should send the original Form I-134 to the noncitizen you intend to sponsor so that he or she can include it with his or her visa application or bring it to the U.S. consulate where he or she will apply for a tourist visa. Send the original form with your ink signature on it—the consulate will probably reject a form that has been faxed or emailed. Once you’ve sent the I-134, all that’s left to do is wait for your friend or relative’s visa to be approved.