Filling Out Form I-864 for Immigrating Family Member

How the petitioning U.S. spouse should enter financial sponsorship information on USCIS Form I-864.

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In order to petition for and sponsor an immigrant to become a U.S. permanent resident (receive a green card), the U.S. citizen or permanent resident petitioner must show readiness and ability to support that person financially for a period of years. The idea is to demonstrate to the U.S. government that the immigrant is not inadmissible as someone likely to become a public charge -- that is, receive need-based government assistance (often called "welfare"). The Affidavit represents the petitioner/sponsor's promise to either support the immigrant financially or pay back (reimburse) any government agencies from which the immigrant does claim financial assistance. It also shows the sponsor's capacity to provide the promised support, by proving income and assets (if need be) that meet at least 125% of the U.S. government's Poverty Guidelines levels.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has prepared a form for the petitioner to fill out, called Form I-864. It's available for free download on the USCIS website. In fact, USCIS offers two versions of this form: the standard I-864, and a shorter I-864EZ, for use by petitioners who are sponsoring only one person on the Form I-130 petition and using only a salary or pension as income (no assets and so forth), with that income shown on one or more Forms W-2 provided by an employer(s) or former employer(s).

A Form I-864 can also be used by someone who is not the original petitioner. If the petitioner's income is insufficient and there are no household members who can contribute, a separate sponsor from outside the household can fill in an additional Affidavit of Support on the immigrant's behalf, also using the instructions below.

Note that a few petitioners need not fill out this form; see "Who Is Exempt From Filling Out Form I-864 Affidavit of Support."

The instructions we give below are for the long version of Form I-864.

Need to prepare Affidavits for several family members at once? If the sponsor is bringing in more than one person using the same Form I-130 visa petition, such as a spouse and children, he or she can make copies of Form I-864 (and its supporting documents) after signing it. This will be possible for only a few applicants, however, such as those whose U.S. spouse is a permanent resident. If the spouse is a U.S. citizen, all the children will have needed their own Forms I-130, and will also need separately filled-out Forms I-864.

Parts 1-5

These sections are self-explanatory, with the following notes:

  • In Part 1, the main petitioner must check box a; anyone who agreed to fill in this form as a joint sponsor would check either box d or box e.
  • In Part 2, the immigrant would have an "A number" or Alien Number only if he or she had previously applied for a green card or other immigration benefit or been in deportation or removal proceedings. And the immigrant would have a Social Security Number only if he or she had worked legally in the United States.
  • In Part 3, note that there is a place to list children. The petitioner does not need to name children who were born in the United States, having no obligation to support them (they aren't immigrating; though they will be counted elsewhere within this form to test the sponsor’s overall financial capacity based on who the sponsor is already responsible for). The form says “Do not include any relative listed on a separate visa petition.” For example, if the sponsor is a U.S. citizen petitioning for a spouse, any immigrating children will need to have been mentioned on a separate I-130 visa petition and so need their own separate Forms I-864 as well.
  • In Part 4, note that the sponsor’s place of residence must be in the United States in order to be eligible as a financial sponsor. If the sponsor lives outside the U.S., he or she can meet this requirement by showing steps taken to return to the U.S. and make it his or her residence as soon as the immigrant enters. Such steps might include finding U.S. employment, locating a place to live, and registering children in U.S. schools. The sponsor should also demonstrate having made arrangements to give up his or her residence outside the United States.
  • In Part 5, Sponsor’s household size, just remember not to count anyone twice! This number is important, because the sponsor must show a certain level of income based on his or her household size.
Part 6, Sponsor’s income and employment

Questions 1-4: The sponsor needs to check the box that applies best to his or her employment here. The choices are employed, self-employed, retired, or unemployed. Be aware that if a self-employed sponsor has underreported income in the past, the earnings shown may not be sufficient to support the intending immigrant In that case, the sponsor will need to file an amended tax return and pay a penalty before the newly reported income is accepted as meeting the guidelines for sponsorship.

Question 5: Here, the sponsor should enter his or her current income. This amount may be different than the amount shown on the sponsor's most recent tax return or W-2. Current income can be obtained by using the documentation the sponsor is already providing along with Form I-864. For example, if the sponsor is providing an employer's letter documenting his or her income or pay stubs to show earnings for the current year, that should be enough to substantiate current income.

Questions 6-9: This question is important for sponsors whose income is not enough by itself, but who will be using the income of members of their household to help meet the Poverty Guidelines minimum requirements. First, every sponsor must state his or her own income. Then, if the sponsor wants other people’s income counted, they must be mentioned in Questions 6-9. Unless anyone of these household members is the actual immigrant, they must plan to complete a separate agreement with the sponsor, using Form I-864A. The total annual household income from the sponsor and household members goes in Question 10.

Question 13-14: The sponsor should check this box to indicate that he or she has filed tax returns for the most recent three tax years and list the adjusted gross income reported to the IRS in Questions 13a to 13c. If the sponsoris able to provide tax transcripts or signed tax returns along with Form I-864, it will strengthen the application. Check the box in Question 14 if the sponsor is providing this documentation.

Part 7, Use of assets to supplement income

The sponsor needs to complete this section only if his or her income wasn’t enough by itself to meet the Poverty Guidelines requirements. If the sponsor needs to add assets, which may include such items as a house, car, or boat, remember to subtract debts, mortgages, and liens before writing down their value. And remember that the value of these assets will later be divided by three before being used to meet the Poverty Guidelines minimum if the sponsor is a U.S. citizen spouse, and will be divided by five if the sponsor is a U.S. permanent resident spouse. If some of the assets being used to meet the minimum belong to the immigrant, attach a separate page describing these (and of course attach documents to prove their ownership, location, and value).

If the combination of the sponsor’s household available income and either one-third or one-fifth (as appropriate) of the sponsor’s and/or the immigrant’s assets do not yet meet the Poverty Guidelines minimum, the immigrant will still need to hand in this Affidavit, but will definitely want to seek a joint sponsor.

Part 8, Sponsor’s Contract

Unlike past versions of this form, the sponsor’s signature does not need to be witnessed by a notary public.

by: , J.D.

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