Family sponsors of immigrants applying for a U.S. green card must prove that they can financially support the immigrant as well as their own household at 125% of the dollar amounts shown in the U.S. Poverty Guidelines. These amounts can be found on immigration Form I-864P, published by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
(Sponsors of K-1 fiance visa applicants, however, may need to show less. See "How Much Income K-1 Fiancé Visa Applicants' Sponsors Need to Show" for details.)
The Poverty Guidelines chart changes regularly. The federal government usually updates it in February or March of each year, and the immigration authorities start to follow it two months later. When you attend your visa or green card interview, you will have to meet the most current guidelines.
How Many People Will the Sponsor Be Supporting?
For green card and immigrant visa applications, the sponsor’s income and assets must be enough to support the people who depend financially on the sponsor (also called household members or dependents), at 125% of the income level that the government believes puts a person into poverty. An exception is made for members of the U.S. Armed Forces, who need reach only 100% of the Poverty Guidelines levels when sponsoring someone for a green card.
To count the dependents who must be covered, add up the following:
• the sponsor (also called the petitioner; that is, the person who first filed the I-130 visa petition for the immigrant) or joint sponsor (if the main sponsor's income isn't high enough and he or she needs to share the responsibility with someone else)
• the currently entering immigrant or immigrants (if children are also applying)
• any other immigrants for whom the sponsor has signed an I-864, and
• all family members listed as dependents on the sponsor’s tax return.
Once you have calculated the number of household members and dependents, refer to the Poverty Guidelines chart. In the far left column, locate the line showing the number of people for whom the sponsor is responsible. Then look to the appropriate column to find how much the sponsor must show in income and assets.
When to Include Assets in the Sponsor's Calculations
Assets (such as savings, houses, or cars) are counted at only one fifth their current market value, or one third if the immigrant is the spouse or child of a U.S. citizen. And you must subtract out any debt liabilities, mortgages, and liens against the asset.
Assets must also be readily convertible into cash (within one year). For example, if the sponsor owns a new condominium in an empty complex that is in bankruptcy, there may not be a market for the place (i.e. no one wants to buy it). USCIS may decide that, even though the sponsor paid a million dollars for the condo, this asset does not count, because it cannot be converted into cash within one year.
Job offers with anticipated salaries don’t count. Someone applying for an immigrant visa from overseas who has received a job offer with a set salary in the United States should provide this information in the application process, but realize that it's likely to provide only a little help. The immigration authorities are not allowed to use this salary to make up for a shortfall in the sponsor’s ability to meet the Poverty Guidelines minimum.
USCIS also says that income the immigrant earns overseas cannot be counted, since the immigrant probably will not be able to keep such a job after coming to the United States. Finally, any income that the immigrant gained through unauthorized employment in the U.S. (with no legal right or USCIS permission to work) cannot be counted either.