Filling Out Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act

Line-by-line guidance for properly filling out an I-864 Affidavit of Support for an immigrating family member.

By , J.D. University of Washington School of Law
Updated 7/18/2024

In order to petition for and sponsor an immigrant family member to become a U.S. permanent resident (receive a green card), the U.S. citizen or permanent resident petitioner must show readiness and ability to support that person financially. It's an obligation that could last for years. The idea is to demonstrate to the U.S. government that the immigrant is not inadmissible as someone likely to become a public charge—that is, someone who will need to receive need-based government assistance (often called "welfare"). For this purpose, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has prepared a form for petitioners to fill out, called Form I-864 or Affidavit of Support. This article will explain how to prepare this form.

How Form I-864 Binds the U.S. Petitioner to Support the Immigrant

The Form I-864 affidavit represents the U.S. petitioner/sponsor's promise to either support the immigrant financially or pay back (reimburse) any government agencies in the United States from which the immigrant eventually does claim financial assistance. It also shows the U.S. sponsor's capacity to provide the promised support, by proving income and assets (if need be) that are at least 125% of the amount at which someone would be considered to be living in "poverty," according to the U.S. government's Poverty Guidelines.

In fact, USCIS offers two versions of this form: the standard I-864, and a shorter I-864EZ for use by petitioners who sponsor only one person on the Form I-130 petition and use only a salary or pension as income (no assets and so forth), with that income shown on one or more Forms W-2 provided by an employer(s) or former employer(s).

And a few petitioners need not fill out this form at all; see Who Is Exempt From Filling Out Form I-864 Affidavit of Support.

Who Else Besides the Petitioner Might Fill Out a Form I-864?

A Form I-864 can also be used by someone who is not the actual petitioner, to add income to the sponsorship mix. If the petitioner's income is insufficient and there are no household members who can contribute, a separate sponsor (called a "joint sponsor") from outside the household can fill in an additional I-864 Affidavit of Support on the immigrant's behalf, also using the instructions below.

General Tips for Filling Out USCIS Form I-864

The Form I-864 can be filled out on a computer on USCIS's website, or printed out and filled out in hard copy form. If you use a hard-copy version, it's best to type your answers in or write with black ink.

However, avoid writing outside the spaces provided for your answers. If you need more space than what's provided on the main section of form, go to the end of it, where you'll find Part 11, "Additional Information." If that's still not enough, you can attach a separate sheet of paper to the form. On each such sheet, provide your name and alien registration number (A-number) (if you have one) at the top, and indicate the page number, part number, and item number to which each of your answers refers. You must sign and date each sheet.

Sometimes, a question on Form I-864 will not apply to you (for example, if you have no middle name). Rather than leaving the space blank, type or print "N/A" (for "not applicable"). Or, if the question applies to you but the answer is zero or none (for example, if you have no children), type or print "None." Follow those rules unless the form tells you otherwise.

Line-by-Line Instructions for Filling Out Form I-864

The instructions we give here are for the long version of Form I-864, dated 12/08/21.

Need to prepare affidavits for several family members at once? A U.S. sponsor who is bringing in more than one person using the same Form I-130 petition, such as a spouse and children, can make copies of Form I-864 (and its supporting documents) after signing it. This will be possible for only a few applicants, however, such as those whose U.S. spouse is a permanent resident. If the spouse is a U.S. citizen, all the children will have needed their own Forms I-130, and will also need separately filled-out Forms I-864.

Parts 1-5

These sections are self-explanatory, with the following notes for the sponsor filling it out:

  • In Part 1, Basis for Filing the Affidavit of Support, check box 1.a if you are the U.S. citizen or green card holder who petitioned to get the immigrant a visa or green card on the basis of your family relationship. Box 1.b is for people who petitioned to get the immigrant a visa or green card on the basis of a job and are related to the immigrant; however, you would check box 1.c if you don't personally employ your relative but own more than 5% of a company that does. Anyone who agreed to fill in this form as a joint sponsor would check either box 1.d or box 1.e—usually box 1.d. The only time there are two joint sponsors is when there are additional family members being sponsored—you might want to consult an immigration lawyer to analyze whether two joint sponsors will be allowed in your case. A "substitute sponsor" (box 1.f.) is someone who is signing the form in place of the petitioner because the petitioner died. Substitute sponsors must be related to the immigrant, and specify that relationship on the form.
  • In Part 2, Information About the Principal Immigrant, that person would have an "A number" (alien registration number) only if they had previously applied for a green card or other immigration benefit or been in deportation or removal proceedings. The immigrant would have a USCIS online account number only if they had created an account online for some immigration-related purpose. You can leave them blank if no such number has been assigned.
  • In Part 3, Information About the Immigrants You Are Sponsoring, the sponsor must list and give information on the family members who are being sponsored for U.S. immigration using this form. In Question 1, check "no" only if you are the second of two joint sponsors. Check the box in Question 2 and list family members only if appropriate. The form warns you not to include family members who must be listed on a separate I-130 petition. This means you shouldn't list family members here if the main person being sponsored is an "immediate relative" (parent, spouse, or minor child of a U.S. citizen)—in that case, any other family members must be petitioned for using a separate Form I-130 and will need a separate Form I-864 filled out for them. You don't need to name children who were born in the United States on this form, since they aren't immigrating (though they will be counted elsewhere within the I-864, so as to test the sponsor's overall financial capacity based on who the sponsor is already responsible for). Don't overlook Question 29—the total number of immigrants you are sponsoring—which is easy to do if skipping the family member questions. You'll need this number for Part 5 of the form.
  • In Part 4, Information About You (Sponsor), fill in the section asking for a physical address (Questions 4.a. through 4.h.) only if you check "No" in Question 3. Note that the sponsor's country of domicile (Question 5) must be the United States in order to be eligible to serve as a financial sponsor. Sponsors who lives outside the United States can, however, meet this requirement by showing steps taken to return to the United States and make it their residence as soon as the immigrant enters. Such steps might include giving notice of intent to quit a job overseas, selling the overseas house, finding U.S. employment, locating a place to live, and registering children in U.S. schools. (For more on this, see How Overseas U.S. Citizen Proves U.S. Domicile for Form I-864 Sponsorship.)
  • In Part 5, Sponsor's Household Size, USCIS wants you to tell it how many people you'll be financially responsible for when you sign the affidavit. Therefore, it's important not to count anyone twice. Part 5 can be confusing, because USCIS wants you to add up the number of various types of people you're financially responsible for; but it might look like some people can fall into more than one category. You'll notice, however, that the form divides the categories into people you're sponsoring on the form (box 1), and people you're not sponsoring on the form (all the other boxes). So, for example, a husband or wife who's being sponsored would be counted in the number in box 1. You wouldn't enter a "1" in box 3, because that box is only for people NOT being sponsored. Don't count anyone in box 6 unless they already have received their green card. If you're signing a separate affidavit of support for someone else at the same time you're signing this affidavit, do not count that person.

Part 6, Sponsor's Employment and Income

Now comes the important matter of the U.S. sponsor's financial capacity.

Questions 1−6.: The sponsor needs to check one or more of these boxes. If checking box 1, use the job title that your employer gives you. If you have more than two employers and do different jobs, add your additional jobs on the Part 11 supplementary information page. If you're retired, USCIS will be interested in the employer(s) from which you might be receiving retirement benefits. Be aware that if you're self-employed and you underreported income to U.S. tax authorities in the past, the earnings shown on your tax returns or transcripts might not be sufficient to support the intending immigrant. In that case, you will need to file an amended tax return with the IRS and your state and pay a penalty before the newly reported income is accepted as meeting the guidelines for sponsorship.

Question 7: The easiest thing to do, if you file your tax returns as a single person, is to enter the "total income" figure from your most recent federal income tax return (Form 1040 or 1040EZ). If this number exceeds 125% of the U.S. poverty level for your household size, and you provide tax documents to substantiate the number (such as a W-2 or Schedule C), USCIS will not likely question you further.

If you file your tax returns as a married person and the tax returns reflect your spouse's income as well, the easiest thing to do is to figure out exactly how much of the "total income" number is yours. This number should match the number on the W-2 or other tax document that you (yourself) received. Explain on the supplementary page why this number is different than the number that shows up on your latest federal income tax return.

Not every case is so easy. Frequently, the "total income" number on the latest federal income tax return is not 125% of the poverty level for the household size, but the sponsor's current annual income is in fact sufficient. For example, the sponsor might have income that is not considered part of "total income" on the tax form, such as nontaxable Social Security retirement income, alimony, or child support. If that's the case, explain this on the supplement page and provide evidence of the income.

Or, the sponsor might be making more money than during the previous year. If you need to rely on that, you might have to predict how much money you will make this year and support your calculation with evidence. If you're not self-employed, USCIS will require a recent letter from your employer, showing your employer's address and telephone number, and indicating your annual wage or pay rate, plus pay records showing your income for the previous six months.

Questions 8−22: These questions are 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. If you are relying on the income of household members, check box 21, except if you are just relying on the income of the immigrant you are sponsoring and that person has no dependents who are immigrating with them. Such household members must complete a separate agreement with the sponsor, using Form I-864A. If the immigrant's income can be used (the immigrant must be a member of your household) and the immigrant has no dependents immigrating at the same time, check box 22 and provide the immigrant's name, because the immigrant won't have to submit a Form I-864A. The total annual household income from the sponsor and household members goes in box 20.

Questions 23-25: For persons who filed federal income tax returns as single, the numbers USCIS is looking for in the "total income" boxes in 24.a, 24b, and 24.c. can be found on your Form 1040 (or some version thereof). Persons who filed as married will have to determine how much of the number on those lines is attributable to their own personal income.

Part 7, Use of Assets to Supplement Income

Technically, U.S. sponsors needs to complete this section only if their income (combined with any household member income) wasn't enough by itself to meet the Poverty Guidelines minimum requirements. However, if the case is at all marginal, it's a good idea to show as much financial capacity as possible. If the sponsor can add assets, including such items as a house, second car (so long as it's in working condition), or a boat, do so; but remember to subtract debts, mortgages, and liens before writing down their value. Also remember that the value of these assets will later be divided by three before being used to meet the Poverty Guidelines minimum if the the immigrant is the spouse or child of a U.S. citizen sponsor, and will be divided by five for everyone else.

If the combination of the sponsor's household available income and either one-third or one-fifth (as appropriate) of the sponsor's household and/or the immigrant's assets do not yet meet the Poverty Guidelines minimum, the immigrant will still need to hand in this affidavit, but will need to seek a joint sponsor.

Part 8, Sponsor's Contract, Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, Certification, and Signature

If you handled this form yourself, check box 1.a. If an interpreter helped you understand it, check box 1.b. If someone else filled in the form based on information you provided, check box 2 and provide a name. USCIS also wants to know if that person is your lawyer or accredited representative (a person who is not a lawyer but who is legally allowed to represent people in immigration matters).

Add your contact information in Questions 3 through 5.

Your signature and the date go in boxes 6.a. and 6.b. You must sign in pen (preferably black ink)—USCIS won't accept a stamped or typed signature, or any kind of copied or faxed signature. A legal guardian can sign for a mentally incompetent person.

Part 9, Interpreter's Contact Information, Certification, and Signature

If you checked box 1.b. in Part 8, the interpreter will have to complete this part.

Part 10, Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature of Person Preparing This Affidavit if Other Than the Sponsor

If you checked box 2 in Part 8, the preparer will have to complete this part. Attorneys and accredited representatives have to tell USCIS in Question 7.b. whether they are representing the sponsor just for purposes of filing the affidavit of support, or for other aspects of the immigration case as well.

Part 11, Additional Information

As mentioned above, use this part to add information and explanations that there was no space for in the rest of the form.

Is There a Fee to File Form I-864?

If the immigrant will be adjusting status (doing all their green card processing within the United States), USCIS will not charge them a separate filing fee for Form I-864. It's included with the other processing fees.

If the immigrant's case is being handled through an overseas U.S. consulate, the National Visa Center will charge a fee for processing the Form I-864 affidavit ($120 in 2024). That amount covers an entire family immigrating together, and any supplementary forms such as the I-864A signed by joint-sponsoring household members.

Getting Legal Help

If you have questions about whether your financial resources are sufficient to sponsor an immigrant, or need help preparing the Form I-864 and/or other portions of the immigration process, consult an immigration attorney. The attorney can offer a personal evaluation of your financial situation and suggestions on how to improve it, prepare all the paperwork, and otherwise advise you.

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