If my immigrating wife works in the U.S., must we fill out the Affidavit of Support?

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Question:

My wife, who is originally from South Korea, has been in the U.S. for about nine years, first as a student and now on an H-1B visa. I'm a U.S. citizen. We got married one year ago, and are finally getting around to filing the paperwork for her to adjust status and get a U.S. green card. However, I’m confused by whether I have to fill out the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) for her. In the instructions, it says something about how if the immigrant “has earned or can be credited with 40 qualifying quarters (credits) of work in the United States,” no Form I-864 is needed. What exactly does that mean? Does it help us?

Answer:

Get ready for some math! A “quarter” is, as you might have guessed, one fourth of a year, as defined by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA also requires that more than a certain amount have been earned over that year, and the amount changes every year. So to reach 40 quarters, your wife would have had to work at least ten years in the United States, and possibly more.

It seems safe to conclude, from the facts you have provided, that your wife has not yet reached 40 quarters on her own. You can check on her earnings record (as well as your own) by going to the "My Social Security" page of the SSA website and creating an account.

However, she can also be credited with qualifying work that you did during the time that you were married. So if you reached the required earnings level over the past year, that might add as many as four quarters to your wife’s tally.

Reaching a full 40 quarters might still be a stretch, based on what you’ve described; so it’s likely you will have to fill out the Form I-864 Affidavit of Support as part of your wife’s adjustment of status application. If she’s close to 40, however, you might want to speak to an attorney for a full analysis. Nolo’s website also contains other helpful articles on “The U.S. Sponsor's Financial Responsibilities.”

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