I am a U.S. citizen, who has filed an immigrant petition to sponsor my parents to get U.S. green cards. They are both retired, and coming to the U.S. from China. I work doing childcare at a nonprofit. My salary is $19,000 a year. I’ve discovered that this is too low to sponsor my parents with--I need about $5,000 per year more. I’m willing to look for another job if I have to, but do I really have to? What about the fact that I own a condo, which is approximately half paid for?
You are wise to look into whether your assets can make up the apparent shortfall between your income and the amount that’s required to sponsor immigrants at 125% of the U.S. Poverty Guidelines (which amounts can be viewed on Form I-864P, published by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS). Proving ownership of assets can be a convenient way to make up the difference without having to look for additional sponsors.
When petitioning for parents (or for other family members besides spouses or children), you would need to make up any shortfall by counting assets at one-fifth their value after subtracting out your debt. (U.S. citizen sponsors of spouses or children need to divide the value by only three.) Another way of saying this is that you need to have assets worth five times the gap between your income and the required Poverty Guidelines minimum amount.
So, for example, let’s say you bought your condo for $300,000 and you owe $150,000 on it. Assuming it hasn’t changed in value, you could count your assets as $150,000 divided by 5, or $30,000. That would be more than enough to meet your $5,000 gap.
It’s entirely possible, of course, that your condo has gone up or down in value. That’s why USCIS may require you to pay a professional, licensed appraiser to provide a written report on your house’s current value. Some applicants have, however, found that U.S. immigration authorities will accept other evidence of the home's value, such as estimates found on websites such as Zillow and Trulia.
You could also supply evidence of your condo's assessed value from your local tax authority, but this may be lower than the actual, current value of your place.
You will also need to provide proof of ownership and a copy of your latest mortgage statement, to show how much you owe on the house.
The U.S. immigration authorities will also need to be convinced that your condo will likely sell (be converted to cash) within one year. This will typically not be a problem unless, for example, they discover evidence that the condos around you are not selling and/or many are in foreclosure.
Don’t forget that your parents’ assets can be counted in this analysis, too. If they perhaps have any savings or investments, this may tip the balance in your favor.
For a full, personal analysis, consult with an immigration attorney. And for more information on this topic, see the articles on Nolo’s page concerning The U.S. Sponsor's Financial Responsibilities.