If you have invited a foreign friend or relative to visit you at your home in the United States, one of the first issues to address is whether that person will be able to prove to the satisfaction of a U.S. consular officer that he or she can afford the trip (and therefore won't be tempted to stay in the U.S. and find work).
If you think that the person will have trouble showing the ability to cover the various expenses involved, and thus to return home as scheduled, you might consider providing a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Form I-134, Affidavit of Support. By signing this, you agree to financially support a foreign visitor during the stay in the United States.
This article will provide information to assist you in filling out Form I-134 to help foreign visitors applying for a tourist or other nonimmigrant visa.
This article does not address I-134s for K-1 fiancé visa applicants: If you are a U.S. citizen who will need to submit Form I-134 along as a part of a K visa application for a foreign fiancé, you can find more specific advice at Tips on Filling Out Form I-134 for the Fiancé Visa. Or if you are sponsoring a relative for a green card, you can find helpful information at Filling Out Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act.
Under U.S. immigration law, noncitizens traveling to the United States are inadmissible if, among other reasons, they are "likely to become a public charge."
This means that unless they can show that they have enough money to pay for their expenses in the U.S. (such as food, lodging, transportation, and any emergency medical treatment), they will not be able to obtain a visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate. Similarly, they may be denied entry at the border if visiting the U.S. on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
However, noncitizens can overcome this finding if a lawfully admitted U.S. resident or U.S. citizen prepares a Form I-134 for them, to show at their visa interview at the U.S. consulate or to a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official upon U.S. entry.
When you complete and sign Form I-134, you are assuring the U.S. government that the nonimmigrant whom you are sponsoring will not need to apply for public assistance, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps, or any other government-subsidized benefit.
If your foreign visitor does eventually apply for and receive public assistance, the responsible government agency can take your income and/or assets into consideration when deciding whether to grant the benefits. Also, the government can sue you to recover the cost of providing public assistance to your relative.
On the other hand, this "temporary" affidavit of support on Form I-134 is often referred to by legal experts as being "unenforceable," particularly when compared to its longer-lasting counterpart, Form I-864, which U.S. citizens and permanent residents submit when sponsoring foreign relatives for a green card. There are a few reasons why the I-134 is called "unenforceable:"
In other words, Form I-134 is mostly bark and very little bite, legally speaking. It is basically used to show immigration officials that the otherwise possibly indigent noncitizen has a friend in the U.S. earning a respectable income who is willing to take care of him or her.
Form I-134 and instructions are available on the I-134 page of the USCIS website (www.uscis.gov). There is no fee to file this form. These instructions refer to the 2/13/2019 version of the form, still in use in 2021.
Part 1: Information About You (the Sponsor)
You, as the sponsor of someone coming to the U.S., will be asked to provide information about your bank accounts, assets, employment, and other financial resources. You must show that your income is at least 100% of the amounts listed in the federal Poverty Guidelines for your family size and your state of residence.
Questions 1-7: Fill out your name, past names (such as prior to marriage), mailing and physical address, and date and place of birth.
Question 8: If you are a green card holder, provide your alien registration number ("A number") here.
Question 9: Enter your valid Social Security Number.
Question 10: You will online have a USCIS online account number if you came to the U.S. as an immigrant and registered for such an account in the course of pursuing an application. Don't worry if you don't have one.
Questions 11-12: If you are anything other than a U.S. citizen by birth, you will need to provide additional information here. If you received your U.S. citizenship through naturalization, from your parents, via a qualifying marriage, or through any other means, list the requested information here. If you're a lawful permanent resident, your A-number is on your green card. If you're a nonimmigrant (on a temporary visa, such as J-1 exchange visitor or H-1B worker), your I-94 number is either on a piece of paper you received upon U.S. entry or from USCIS when changing status, or can be found online from CBP. In Question 12, state your age and the date you started living in the United States. If you have lived in the U.S. during several different periods, give the date you started living in the U.S. most recently.
Part 2: Information About the Beneficiary
In this part, provide personal information about the noncitizen whom you are sponsoring and any spouse or children who will be traveling with him or her (or coming to join him or her later). While you should list personal information for each family member who will be traveling to the U.S., note that you will need to submit a separate Form I-134 for each noncitizen you are sponsoring.
Part 3: Other Information About the Sponsor
The sponsor is you, the U.S.-based person assisting someone to obtain a visa.
Questions 1-9: First, list your place of employment. Next, you must document your income and assets. If your salary is more than 100% of the Poverty Guidelines for your family size, you technically do not need to provide information about your assets, but it doesn't hurt to at least provide information for a bank account or two just to be safe. If you do not have sufficient income, then you must be more diligent about listing plenty of assets to show that you have property of value that can be used to support your noncitizen visitor. If you are unemployed or have low income, consider having another person complete Form I-134, if available. You will be asked to provide an amount of money you have in financial institutions in the United States, which means banks and investment companies holding your checking accounts, certificates of deposit, and other accounts with cash on deposit. If you are listing "personal property," you can give an approximate value of vehicles, jewelry, appliances, and any other assets you would like the government to take into account. For real estate, you can use valuation services such as Zillow (which aren't entirely reliable) or hire a professional appraiser.
Questions 10-37: Provide information for any dependents you have listed on your U.S. federal income tax return. If you are a nonresident who pays taxes overseas, you should list any minor children or adults for which you have been appointed guardian. The U.S. government also wants to know if you have sponsored any other noncitizens in the past and if you are still under an obligation to support them. List any noncitizens for whom you have completed either a Form I-134 or Form I-864. The U.S. embassy or consulate will consider whether you are financially capable of supporting all the noncitizens you have sponsored.
Question 38: You should check "intend" here and provide information about the extent of support you will provide your foreign visitor. For example, if you are inviting your cousin to visit your home in the U.S. for two weeks, you should write: "I will furnish room and board and provide money for food, entertainment, and any necessary medical expenses for the duration of her visit." If you plan on providing your visitor with a stipend, you can write "I will provide a lump sum of $1,000 for any expenses during her visit."
Part 4: Sponsor's Statement, Contact Information, Certification, and Signature
These questions mostly describe the responsibility you are taking on by signing Form I-134, and attempt to make sure that you fully understand it. You are instructed that you may be required to post a bond, but this never would be extremely rare with sponsorship of nonimmigrants. Documentation of your employment, income, and financial accounts is normally sufficient for the purposes of sponsoring a temporary visitor to the United States.
Make sure to sign and date your Form I-134.
The remaining sections need to be filled out only if someone helps you with the I-134, such as an interpreter or lawyer.
You should attach evidence to show your income. In most cases, it will be enough to provide a copy of your most recent federal income tax form (or tax transcript), but you might also want to include a letter from your employer and your bank to confirm your employment and money on deposit in U.S. bank accounts.
Make sure to provide two copies of any documentation you submit with Form I-134 (and keep a copy for your own records). Here is some evidence others have used to successfully show that they are able to support a noncitizen visitor:
Do not mail Form I-134 to USCIS or any other government agency. Send the original Form I-134 to the noncitizen you intend to sponsor so that he or she can include it with his or her visa application or bring it to the U.S. consulate where he or she will apply for a tourist visa. Send the version with your ink signature on it—the consulate might reject a form that has been faxed or emailed.
Once you've sent the I-134, all that's left to do is wait for your friend or relative's visa to be approved.