If you are petitioning for a spouse, parent, child, or other family member to receive a U.S. green card (lawful permanent residence) then you will also need to serve as that person's financial sponsor. The purpose is to assure the U.S. government that your immigrant beneficiary will not become a public charge in the U.S. -- a ground of inadmissibility meaning that he or she is likely to require need-based government assistance (welfare).
Form I-864, the Affidavit of Support, is the primary form that you will need to fill out to prove your willingness and ability to support the immigrant. (You also might need a joint sponsor to assist in supporting you if your income and assets aren’t high enough to reach the government’s Poverty Guidelines.)
Some sponsors can use a simpler version of Form I-864. If you have enough income so that you don’t need to resort to assets or other help to sponsor the immigrant(s), it’s okay to use an alternate form, called Form I-864EZ. Also, couples who have been married long enough that the immigrant can be credited with 40 quarters of work through the U.S. citizen spouse are exempt from this requirement, and should fill out Form I-864W to advise USCIS of this fact. Both forms are available at www.uscis.gov.
Tips for Filling Out Form I-864Here are some notes on trickier sections of the Form I-864:
- In Part 1, family petitioners check box a; friends and others who agreed to fill in this form as joint sponsors check either box d or box e.
- In Part 3, the list of children should include only those who will be immigrating with the immigrant. If you mention any other children here, it will mean that the sponsor is agreeing to be sued if he or she fails to support them. In particular, it is unnecessary to name children who were born in the United States, because the sponsor has no obligation to support them (at least not under the immigration laws, though they will be counted elsewhere within this form to test the sponsor’s overall financial capacity).
- In Part 4, note that the sponsor’s place of residence must be in the United States in order for him or her to be eligible as a financial sponsor. If the sponsor is not currently living in the U.S., the I-864 will be approved only with a showing that he or she is abroad temporarily, has maintained ties to the U.S., and intends to reestablish domicile in the U.S. no later than the date that the immigrant is admitted to the U.S. as a permanent resident.
Some of the ways a sponsor can show having maintained ties to the U.S. include having paid state or local taxes, maintained bank accounts in the U.S., and maintained a permanent U.S. mailing address. (Of course, if a permanent resident has been outside the U.S. for more than a year at a time without first getting permission from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), or has made so many short trips outside the U.S. for the last few years that he or she appears to be living outside the U.S. and only visiting, that person may be in danger of having the U.S. government decide that he or she has abandoned the right to permanent residence. That would be a disaster and the visa petition would be revoked.)
Part 5, Sponsor’s household size
This section is self-explanatory. Remember not to count anyone twice!
Part 6, Sponsor’s income and employment
Question 22: The sponsor needs to fill in information about his or her employment here. Self-employment is fine. Be aware that if a self-employed sponsor has underreported income in the past, the earnings shown may not be sufficient to support you. 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 23: Here, the sponsor is supposed to enter the income shown on his or her most recent tax return. But what if the sponsor’s income has risen since filing those taxes? In that case, the sponsor should enter the more recent income figure, but put an asterisk (an *) next to it. Then find some white space somewhere on the page and write “this figure reflects present earnings, not earnings shown on tax return; see supporting documentation.” The documentation the sponsor is already providing, such as an employer’s letter, should be enough to show current income.
Question 24: 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 Question 24b and the sponsor must check box d. Unless any one 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 income from the sponsor and household members goes in Question 24c.
Question 25: Self-explanatory.
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 and he or she includes such items as a house, car, or boat, remember to subtract debts, mortgages, and liens before writing down their value in Question 26. The value of these assets will later be divided by five before being used to meet the Poverty Guidelines minimum.
If some of the assets being used to meet the minimum belong to a household member, enter the household member’s name in Question 27, along with the total amount the assets are worth. 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 the assets’ ownership, location, and value).
If the combination of the sponsor’s available income and one fifth of the sponsor’s and/or the immigrant’s assets don’t yet meet the Poverty Guidelines minimum, you’ll still need to hand in this Affidavit. But you’ll definitely want to look for a joint sponsor or a participating household member.
Part 8, Sponsor’s Contract
Unlike past versions of this form, the sponsor’s signature no longer needs to be witnessed by a notary public.
Need to prepare Affidavits for several members of the same family at once? If the sponsor is bringing in more than one person (for example, a spouse and children) within the same process, he or she can simply copy Form I-864 (with supporting documents) the appropriate number of times after signing it.
Financial Documents to Include With Form I-864
When it comes to proving your capacity to support the immigrant financially, the consulate or USCIS will require detailed, up-to-date information from trustworthy sources, including:
- A copy of the sponsor’s federal income tax returns for the last three years, with W-2s. Don’t include state tax forms. The immigration authorities prefer to see federal tax returns in the form of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) transcripts (an IRS-generated summary of the return that was filed). Transcripts can be requested using IRS Form 4506T (available from www.irs.gov or by calling 800-829-1040). However, it usually takes several weeks to receive the transcript. Don’t let this hold up the immigration process—if the transcript hasn’t come by the time you need to submit the Form I-864, simply use the sponsor’s personal photocopies of tax returns.
- Proof of sponsor’s current employment. Start with a letter from the sponsor’s employer describing the dates of employment, nature of the job, wages/salary, time worked per week, terms, and prospects for advancement. Also include copies of pay stubs covering the last six months, or the most recent stub if it shows cumulative pay. If the sponsor is self-employed, a tax return is acceptable, but it is a good idea to add a business license, copies of current receipts, or other supporting documents.
- A list of assets, (the sponsor’s and/or the immigrant’s) if they must be used to meet the Poverty Guidelines’ minimum. There is no form to use for creating this list of assets. Using a typewriter or word processor, prepare a list or table with the following information: 1) a brief description of the item; 2) the item’s current value; 3) remaining debt (if any), and 4) a brief description of the document you’ve attached to prove ownership (see below).
- Proof of ownership of assets (the sponsor’s and/or the immigrant’s), if any were listed. The Form I-864 itself does a good job of detailing which documents will be accepted as proof of ownership of assets, as explained on page 5, Use of Assets to Supplement Income. The value must be the likely sale price, not how much the sponsor paid for the property. For real estate, you can use a tax assessment to show the value. If the assessment seems too low, or for property other than real estate, the sponsor can hire a professional appraiser to prepare an estimate and report. For cars, the value listed in the Kelley Blue Book is acceptable. Look for the Kelley Blue Book at a library or bookstore, or online at www.kbb.com. The sponsor must also document the amount of any debt remaining on the property. If no debt remains, submit proof of final payment.
We’re advising you to prepare more than the minimum financial documents. Technically, you’re supposed to be asked for only one year’s tax returns, and that’s it. But because so many consulates ask for more, it makes sense to be ready with additional years’ tax returns plus a bank and employer letter.
You may need to update your information later. By the time of the visa or green card interview, circumstances may have changed for the sponsor, joint sponsor, or household joint sponsor. For example, if the sponsor or joint sponsor have new or different employment, you should bring a job letter and copies of recent pay stubs; and if a new tax year has begun, bring copies of the sponsor(s)’ most recent tax returns.