Would a U.S. job offer help me get my marriage-based visa (if my U.S. spouse’s income is too low)?

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Question:

I am a national of Japan, recently married to a woman who is a U.S. citizen. I work as a business executive, and speak English. I am already looking for a job in the United States, and may have an offer by the time I attend my immigrant visa interview. My wife, however, is widowed with one child, and works part-time as a teacher’s aide. It appears her income does not reach the required level to sponsor an immigrant. If I obtain a job offer, will this overcome this difficulty? Will she still need to fill out Form I-864?

Answer:

Technically, your U.S. job offer is not supposed to count when U.S. immigration authorities assess your U.S. sponsor’s ability to support you (as well as members of her own household) at a level that meets the 125% of Poverty Guidelines minimum.

Your wife will need to fill out Form I-864 Affidavit of Support on your behalf regardless of her income level; but from what you describe, that income might not be found legally sufficient to avoid your being considered likely to become a “public charge” (dependent on need-based government assistance).

Just to doublecheck, you will want to look at Form I-864P, provided on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.  Check the amount shown in the far right column for three people (your wife, her child, and you). As of 2013, that amount was $24,412. These amounts are updated by the U.S. government every year.

If your wife’s income comes anywhere close to the required amount, it’s possible you could make up the difference by showing ownership of assets such as a house or savings – yours or hers. For every $3 worth of assets, you’d get to count $1 more toward her income. (That amount is for spouses of U.S. citizens only – other relations need to show $5 in assets to count as $1 of income.)

All that said, if you receive a job offer with a set salary in the United States, you should provide documentation of this during the application process. If your case is on the edge, it may tip the consular officer toward recognizing that, in truth, you are unlikely to become a public charge, and approving your immigrant visa rather than demanding more documentation or an additional sponsor.

If none of that works, consider the possibilities offered in the article, “Strategies When an Immigrant's Sponsor's Income and Assets Are Too Low” or speak with an attorney.   

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