Many applications for immigration benefits, most specifically immigrant and nonimmigrant visas and legal permanent resident status, must be accompanied by evidence that the foreign national applicant will not become a public charge and/or is able to afford the service being sought.
Here, we take a comprehensive look at the Form I-864P, HHS Poverty Guidelines for Affidavit of Support, which USCIS uses in determining the appropriate income levels required for the Form I-134 Affidavit of Support and I-864 Affidavit of Support. The I-864P is published each year in March and can be found here: http://www.visapro.com/forms/uscis-forms/uscis-form-i-864p/.
Understanding The Poverty Guidelines
There are two slightly different versions of the federal poverty measure:
- The poverty thresholds, and
- The poverty guidelines
The poverty thresholds are the original version of the federal poverty measure. The thresholds are updated each year by the Census Bureau and are used mainly for statistical purposes — for instance, preparing estimates of the number of Americans who live in poverty each year.
The poverty guidelines are another version of the federal poverty measure. The guidelines are issued each year in the Federal Register by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The guidelines are a simplification of the poverty thresholds for use for administrative purposes — for instance, determining financial eligibility for certain federal programs.
Poverty Guidelines And Immigration
Generally, applicants for a nonimmigrant or an immigrant visa must show that they will not become a public charge while in the U.S. The poverty guidelines are used in calculating levels of income and assets that immigrant visa petitioners and joint sponsors must demonstrate in the I-134 or I-864 Affidavits of Support.
What Is An Affidavit of Support?
There are 2 types of Affidavits of Support- the I-134 and the I-864.
The I-134, Affidavit of Support can be used by nonimmigrant visa applicants to show that they will not become public charges in the U.S. In this article, we are focusing our discussion on K-1/K-2 and K-3/K-4 visa applicants only.
The I-864, Affidavit of Support, is used with immigrant visa applications and Adjustment of Status applications. It is a contract between a sponsor, the applicant, and the US government, in which the sponsor agrees to provide financial support for the applicant until s/he becomes an American citizen or can be credited with 40 quarters of work (usually ten years).
Who Needs An Affidavit of Support?
The I-134 is generally required for all K-1/K-2 and K-3/K-4 visa applicants.
The following applicants for immigrant visas need an I-864:
- All applicants in family-based immigrant visa categories
- Orphans to be adopted in the United States (IR-4)
- Applicants for employment-based immigrant visas whose relative filed the immigrant visa petition or whose relative has a five percent or greater ownership interest in the business that filed the petitionon
What Are The Income Requirements For An Affidavit of Support?
For K-1/K-2 and K-3/K-4 applicants using the I-134, the sponsor and/or joint sponsor must show that their income and/or assets is equal to or greater than 100% of the US poverty level for the household size.
For the I-864, the sponsor, joint sponsor or a substitute sponsor must show that their household income is equal to or higher than 125% of the U.S. poverty level for the household size. If the sponsor is on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States, and the immigrant being sponsored is the spouse or child, the income only needs to equal 100 percent of the U.S. poverty level for the household size.
Using Assets to Meet the Threshold
Assets can be used to supplement any shortfalls in the required income level. To be counted, the cash value of assets must equal five times the difference between the sponsor’s income and 125% of the poverty line for the household size (100% if US spouse in the military or for K-1/K-2 and K-3/K-4 applicants). If the intending immigrant is the spouse or child of a US citizen or legal permanent resident, then the assets must equal three times the difference.
Assets can include savings, stocks, bonds and property. Non-liquid assets must be able to be easily converted to cash.
Example: If you have a family of three, but your income is $10,000 short of the required income level, you would need to show assets of at least $50,000 ($10,000 X 5).
What Does Household Size?
Household size means all those living in the sponsor’s household or are dependent on the sponsor for support (usually listed as a depending on the income tax return). The household size generally includes:
- The sponsor
- All relatives by blood, marriage or adoption living in the sponsor’s household
- All dependents listed on the most recent federal tax forms (IRS 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ), whether or not they live in the sponsor’s household
- Any individuals for whom the sponsor has already signed an I-864 and for whom the contractual obligation still exists
- The applicant (beneficiary) for the visa
- The applicant’s (beneficiary’s) accompanying dependents
For example, if you have a spouse and two children and you want to sponsor your brother and his wife, you must prove that your household income is equal to or higher than 125% of the U.S. poverty level for a family of six. You must also include in your household size any immigrants you have previously sponsored. In the above example, if you had previously sponsored your parents and your sister, your household size would be nine persons.
The Affidavit of Support is a critical part of the immigrant visa and K-1/K-2 and K-3/K-4 process.
Ensuring that the form is completed correctly can mean the difference between approval and outright denial by the consular or USCIS officer. It is extremely important that sponsors clearly understand the requirements and thresholds to qualify as a sponsor and to know when a joint sponsor or the use of assets is required.
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