1. What is an Affidavit of Support?
If you are bringing a relative to live permanently in the U.S., you must accept legal responsibility for financially supporting this family member. You accept this responsibility and become your relative’s sponsor by completing and signing a document called an Affidavit of Support. This legally enforceable responsibility lasts until your relative becomes a U.S. Citizen or can be credited with 40 quarters of work (usually ten years.)
2. For whom is an Affidavit of Support required?
You must complete and submit Form I-864 Affidavit of Support, if you are bringing a relative to the U.S. An Affidavit of Support is required for all immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, which include parents, spouses, and unmarried children under the age of 21, including orphans and relatives who qualify for immigration to the U.S. under one of the family-based preferences:
First Preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. Adult means 21 years of age or older
Second Preference: Spouses of lawful permanent residents and the unmarried sons and daughters (regardless of age) of lawful permanent residents and their unmarried children
Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, their spouses and their unmarried minor children
Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens, their spouses and their unmarried minor children
3. What is the definition of ‘relative’ for employment based sponsors?
‘Relative’ includes the spouse, adult son or daughter, child, parent or sibling of the person filing the I-140, employment petition or who has a relative with five per cent or more ownership interest in the petitioning company.
4. Where can I find the law?
The Immigration and Nationality Act is the law that governs the admission of all immigrants to the U.S. For the part of the law concerning Affidavits of Support, please see INA § 212(a)(4) and section 213A. The provisions are codified in Title 8, United States Code, as sections 1182(a)(4) and 1183a. The specific requirements for Affidavits of Support can be found in Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations at 8 CFR part 213a.
5. Who is required to be a sponsor?
If you have filed an immigrant visa petition for your relative, you must be the sponsor.
- You must also be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident
- You must have a domicile in the U.S. or a territory or possession of the U.S.
6. Can anyone else be a sponsor?
The Immigration and Nationality Act section 213A permits both a ‘joint sponsor’ and a ‘substitute sponsor’ in certain cases.
7. Who can be a ‘joint sponsor’, and when is a ‘joint sponsor’ allowed?
A ‘joint sponsor’ is someone who is willing to accept legal responsibility for supporting your family member with you. A ‘joint sponsor’ must meet all the same requirements as you, except the ‘joint sponsor’ does not need to be related to the immigrant. The ‘joint sponsor’, or the ‘joint sponsor’ and his or her household, must reach the 125 per cent income requirement alone. You cannot combine your income with that of a ‘joint sponsor’ to meet the income requirement.
8. Is there a limit on the number of ‘joint sponsors’?
No, there is no limit on the number of ‘joint sponsors’; however, each ‘joint sponsor’ must meet the 125 per cent of the poverty line income requirement for their household size. ‘Joint sponsors’ are not permitted if the petitioner meets the income requirements unless an Immigration or Consular Officer requests one.
9. How can I reinstate a visa petition that was revoked by the death of the original petitioner?
Typically, when the visa petitioner dies, the approved I-130 originally filed by the visa petitioner is automatically revoked. However, following the passage of the Family Sponsor Immigration Act, P.L. 107-150, beneficiaries of these petitions may file for reinstatement so long as they can provide an I-864 Affidavit of Support filed by a ‘substitute sponsor’.
10. What if a petitioner dies before all family members immigrate?
If the petitioner of a preference immigrant dies after the principal sponsored family member has immigrated but before a family member qualifying to ‘follow to join’ the principal immigrant has immigrated, another sponsor, acting and qualifying as a ‘joint sponsor,’ may file an Affidavit of Support on behalf of that immigrant.
Note: Take the example of a parent who petitions for her married daughter and her family to immigrate. The daughter and children immigrate immediately, but the husband chooses to wait for another year. A new Affidavit of Support signed by the petitioner would be required for the husband at the time he immigrates, but this would not be possible if the petitioning parent had died. In this instance, a ’joint sponsor’ would be permitted. In the case of an immediate relative, since each immediate relative family member is the beneficiary of a separate visa petition, a new petition and Affidavit of Support would be required.
11. What is a ‘substitute sponsor’ and how can I be one?
A ‘substitute sponsor’ is a sponsor who files an I-864, Affidavit of Support form, in place of a visa petitioner who has died. In order to be a ‘substitute sponsor’, you must be related to the intending immigrant in one of the following ways:
- Child (if at least 18 years of age)
Note: You must also be a U.S. citizen or national or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence, be at least 18 years of age, domiciled in the United States, and meet all of the financial requirements of a sponsor pursuant to INA 213A.
12. Can a sponsored immigrant sponsor other immigrants?
Immigrants who are currently the beneficiaries of sponsorship obligations may be sponsors. They must meet the income requirements on their own or obtain a ‘joint sponsor’ in the same manner that other petitioner-sponsors qualify. This situation would most likely occur when permanent residents petition for their spouses or unmarried sons and daughters under the second preference, since most other petitioners would be U.S. citizens.
13. Are citizens adopting immigrant children required to file Affidavits of Support?
Yes, all persons who immigrate as immediate relatives, including all orphans, must have Affidavits of Support unless they are self-petitioning beneficiaries of approved Forms I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow or Special Immigrant.
14. Is there a battered-spouse or child exception to the Affidavit of Support requirement?
Yes, prospective immigrants who have the status of battered spouses or children of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents may immigrate without Affidavits of Support. To qualify for this status, foreign nationals must be the beneficiaries of approved I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow or Special Immigrant applications classifying them under this ‘self-petitioning’ category.
15. Is an Affidavit of Support required for diversity immigrants – visa lottery applicants – or any other groups of immigrants?
The new Affidavit of Support, Form I-864 may only be used for family-based and certain employment based immigrants. For other types of immigrants, such as diversity immigrants or lawful permanent residents returning after long absences from the U.S. where there are concerns about inadmissibility on public charge grounds, the earlier Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, may be used.
16. Are Affidavits of Support required for persons other than immigrants?
Currently, some aliens entering the U.S. temporarily, particularly students and parolees, may be required to have Affidavits of Support filed on their behalf. These situations are not affected by the new legally enforceable Affidavit of Support requirements. Sponsors of aliens who do not fall within the definition of Section 213A will continue to use the I-134 Affidavit of Support form. Refugees are not subject to the new Affidavit of Support requirement.
17. Can a religious group, non-governmental organization, venture capitalist or bail bondsman sponsor an immigrant as a joint sponsor?
No, only a natural person can be a sponsor. Religious and other groups usually sponsor refugees who are not required to have Affidavits of Support.
18. What are the income requirements for an Affidavit of Support?
You must meet certain income requirements, whether you are a sponsor, a ‘joint sponsor’, or a ‘substitute sponsor’.
1. You must show that your household income is equal to or higher than 125 per cent of the U.S. poverty level for your household size
2. Your household size includes you, your dependents, any relatives living with you, and the immigrants you are sponsoring
Note: 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 per cent of the U.S. poverty level for a family of six.
3. You must also include in your household size any immigrants you have previously sponsored under this part of the law
Note: In the above example, if you had previously sponsored your parents and your sister, your household size would be nine persons.
4. If you, the sponsor, are on active duty in the Armed Forces of the U.S., and the immigrant you are sponsoring is your spouse or child, your income only needs to equal 100 per cent of the U.S. poverty level for your family size
19. What does the requirement that the sponsor demonstrate the ability to maintain an income at 125 per cent of the poverty level mean?
Sponsors will be judged on their ability to support the immigrants they are sponsoring at 125 per cent of the poverty level for their household size based on the information they provide in the Affidavit of Support and accompanying documentation. This information must demonstrate that the sponsor and his or her household can reasonably be expected to maintain an income at or above the level required to provide for themselves and all immigrants they have sponsored or are sponsoring.
20. Does the petitioner have to file an Affidavit of Support if he or she cannot meet the income requirements and there is a joint sponsor?
Yes, the law requires that the petitioner must be a sponsor and file an Affidavit of Support, even if he or she cannot meet the income requirements. The petitioner remains fully liable, along with the joint sponsor, for any benefits the sponsored immigrant(s) may use. The ‘joint sponsor’ must file a separate Affidavit of Support.
21. Who determines the poverty level?
The poverty level is recalculated and published annually for the Office of Management and Budget by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The poverty level is increased by a set dollar amount based on the number of persons in the household. The poverty level guidelines are the same for the continental 48 States; separate levels are established for Hawaii and Alaska.
22. How is household size determined?
Household size for purposes of the INS Affidavit of Support includes the sponsor and anyone related to the sponsor by birth, marriage, or adoption living in the sponsor’s residence for at least six months, dependents listed on the sponsor’s Federal income tax return for the most recent tax year, immigrants previously sponsored on the new Affidavit of Support if the support obligation has not terminated, and the persons sponsored in the current Affidavit of Support (the principal immigrant and any accompanying spouse and/or children.)
23. Does a sponsor need to show proof of current employment?
A sponsor is not required to be employed, so long as the sponsor’s income from sources other than employment, or the income of other qualifying persons in the household and/or assets are sufficient to reach or exceed the poverty line for the sponsor’s household size. However, it is anticipated that in most cases the sponsor will need to be employed and show proof of employment to meet the income requirements.
24. What types of evidence can be used to show current employment?
A recent pay stub for the most recent pay period or a letter from an employer including beginning date of employment, type of work performed, and wages or salary paid provide the best evidence of current employment.
25. What types of evidence can be used to show self-employment?
Self-employed persons can show evidence such as the self-employment schedules they filed with their income tax returns or financial records such as bank statements for their business accounts as proof of self-employment.
26. What if a sponsor is receiving welfare benefits?
Current use of welfare benefits by a sponsor or one of the sponsor’s family members or dependents will be considered as a factor in making a determination of eligibility for sponsoring immigrants. However, receipt of certain non-cash types of benefits will not disqualify a sponsor.
27. Is only the sponsor's income included in the determination of whether he or she has sufficient income to be a sponsor?
Income of anyone related to the sponsor by birth, marriage, or adoption who has lived in the sponsor’s household for at least six months or who is listed on the sponsor’s income tax return for the most recent tax year as a dependent can include their income on the Affidavit of Support if they complete and sign a Form I-864A, Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member. This could include the sponsored immigrant’s income.
28. What is the Contract between Sponsor and Household Member, Form I-864A?
The Contract between Sponsor and Household Member, Form I-864A, is a contract between the sponsor and anyone qualifying as a household member or dependent of the sponsor who agrees to make his or her income and/or assets available for the support of the immigrants being sponsored in the immigration Affidavit of Support. By signing this form, household members agree to be jointly responsible with the sponsor to reimburse the costs of any means-tested public benefits used by the sponsored immigrants.
29. If the sponsored immigrant qualifies as a household member or dependent, do they need to sign the I-864A?
A sponsored immigrant household member only needs to submit an INS Form I-864A, Affidavit of Support Contract between Sponsor and Household Member, if his or her income will be used to support his or her accompanying spouse and/or children. If there are no accompanying family members, the sponsored immigrant does not complete the I-864A. The sponsored immigrant does not need to complete an I-864A for his or her assets to be included on the Affidavit of Support.
30. What portions of Federal income tax returns should be submitted with the Affidavit of Support form?
The legal definition of a tax return includes the tax return as well as all supporting supplements, schedules, attachments, or lists which were filed with the return. Sponsors are required to submit all of these materials as they were submitted to IRS for themselves and any other persons whose income is used to qualify.
31. Will the Government verify the accuracy of the information?
The State Department and USCIS may verify the accuracy of information provided on, or in support of, the Affidavit of Support with employers and financial or other institutions, as necessary. This may include the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration.
32. What if income tax returns have not been filed for each of the most recent three tax years?
A sponsor must include as many of the income tax returns for the most recent three tax years with the Affidavit of Support as he or she was required by law to file. If the sponsor filed fewer tax returns than were required, he or she should contact the Internal Revenue Service to determine how to file retroactively. If fewer than three returns were required for reasons such as less than three years’ residency in the U.S. or lack of sufficient income, the sponsor should explain the reasons on the Affidavit of Support.
33. Which income line from the federal tax return is used for income determination?
The line for gross (total) income on IRS Forms 1040 (line 22 in 1996) and 1040A (line 14 in 1996) is used to determine income. The line for adjusted gross income is used for persons filing IRS Form 1040 EZ (line 4 in 1996).
34. What other evidence of income will be accepted if U.S. Federal income tax returns were not required?
Copies of foreign income tax returns or other evidence of income from foreign employment can be accepted as evidence of income in certain circumstances.
35. How are assets used to demonstrate ability to sponsor an immigrant?
If a sponsor does not have sufficient income to meet the income requirement for the number of persons supported, he or she may list assets which are readily convertible to cash within one year for support of the sponsored immigrants. To qualify, the net worth of these assets needs to be five times the difference between the sponsor’s income and the poverty line for the sponsor’s household size.
36. What assets can be used?
Any type of asset can be used if it is readily convertible to cash within a year. Liquid assets such as savings deposits, stocks, bonds, and certificates of deposit will be viewed most favorably because they would be most accessible for the support of sponsored immigrants. Other assets, such as property, may also be acceptable if they can be sold within a year.
37. What evidence of assets is required?
Evidence establishing ownership and the value and location of assets is needed. Additionally, information on any liens and liabilities relating to these assets must be provided. For bank accounts, bank statements for the most recent 12 months, or a letter from the bank stating the date the account was opened, a history of deposits and withdrawals for the past year, and the current balance are needed.
38. Can the immigrant visa applicant count assets that he or she owns that are outside the U.S., such as real estate or personal property?
Yes, under these conditions:
- The assets must be readily convertible to cash within 12 months
- The applicant must show that he or she can take the money or assets out of the country where they are located. Many countries have strict regulations which limit the amount of cash or liquid assets that can be taken out of the country
- The assets equal at least five times the difference between the sponsor’s income and 125 per cent of the poverty line for the household size
39. Can free housing be counted as income?
Yes, sponsors who receive housing and other benefits in place of salary may count those benefits as income. The sponsor may count income that is not subject to taxation (such as housing allowance), as well as taxable income. The sponsor would have to prove the nature and amount of any income that is not included as wages or salary or other taxable income. Evidence of such income can be shown through notations on the W-2 Form (such as Box 13 for military allowances), Form 1099 or other documents that show the claimed income.
40. Does a sponsor need to submit a new Affidavit of Support if new poverty guidelines are issued before the case is decided?
Immigration officers will begin to use new poverty guidelines at the start of the second month after HHS publishes them in the Federal Register. As long as the INS Affidavit of Support form demonstrates sufficient income to meet the 125 per cent income requirement for the sponsor’s household size under the new poverty guidelines, a new Affidavit of Support will not normally be required.
41. What are my responsibilities as a sponsor?
When you sign the Affidavit of Support, you accept legal responsibility for financially supporting the sponsored immigrant until he becomes a U.S. Citizen or can be credited with 40 quarters of work. Any ‘joint sponsors’ or household members whose income is used to meet the minimum income requirements are also legally responsible for financially supporting the sponsored immigrant. If the immigrant receives any ‘means-tested public benefits’, you are responsible for repaying the cost of those benefits to the agency that provided them. If you do not repay the debt, the agency can sue you in court to get the money owed. When in doubt, ask the benefit provider whether the benefit is a ‘means-tested public benefit’.
Note: Currently, Federal ‘means-tested public benefits’ include Food Stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the State Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP). States and local jurisdictions may also designate certain of their programs as means-tested public benefits.
42. When does a sponsor's obligation to support sponsored foreign nationals end?
The sponsorship obligation continues until the sponsored foreign national naturalizes, has worked or can be credited with 40 quarters of work, leaves the U.S. permanently, or dies. However, a sponsor or the sponsor’s estate remains liable for any support or requests for repayment of benefits that arose before the support obligation ended.
43. Does divorce nullify the sponsorship agreement?
No, divorce does not nullify the sponsorship agreement.
44. If a person is issued an immigrant visa before the effective date for the new Affidavit of Support but does not immigrate until later, do they need to get a new Affidavit of Support (I-864)?
No, implementing regulations designate Consular Officers interviewing immigrants during the transition period as Immigration Officers. These immigrants will have had their immigrant visa interviews before the new Affidavit of Support requirements become effective and will not need Affidavits of Support that meet the new requirements.
45. Are original Affidavits of Support required for each family member?
Photocopies of the original Affidavit of Support may be used for each accompanying family member as long as each copy has an original signature and is signed before a Consular or Immigration Officer or a notary public. Photocopies are only valid for six months from the date of the signature on the original Affidavit of Support.
46. Does the Affidavit of Support need to be witnessed or notarized?
The sponsor must sign the original and each photocopied Affidavit of Support before a notary public or an Immigration or Consular Officer. Household members submitting Form I-864A must also sign this contract before a notary public or an Immigration or Consular Officer.
47. Are ‘following to join’ relatives included in the Affidavit of Support?
Family members who will not immigrate within the six-month validity period of the Affidavit of Support should not be listed on it. Petitioners must submit new affidavits of support for ‘following to join’ immigrants at the time they immigrate if it is later than six months after they signed the original Affidavit of Support.
48. Will Consular and Immigration Officers interview sponsors?
Sponsors will not routinely be interviewed. An officer may request that the intending immigrant provide additional information from his or her sponsor at any time during the adjudication of the case. An immigration officer may request that a sponsor appear for an interview if he or she believes that an interview is necessary to make a decision in the case; on rare occasions, a Consular officer could request an interview if the sponsor is overseas.
49. What are the penalties for sponsors who make false statements on the Affidavit of Support?
The criminal penalty for false statements (18 USC 1001) or perjury (18 USC 1621) is a term of imprisonment for up to five years, a fine, or both. The criminal penalty for visa and other document fraud (18 USC 1546) is a term of imprisonment for up to 10 years, a fine, or both. All of these offenses have a five-year statute of limitation. Additionally, if fraud is discovered on an Affidavit of Support, the intending immigrant’s Adjustment of Status or immigrant visa application will be denied.
50. What are the ‘change of address’ responsibilities that a sponsor has and what is the penalty for not complying?
During the period in which the Affidavit of Support is in force, sponsors are required to report all changes in their addresses to the Immigration and Naturalization Service on Form I-865, Sponsor’s Change of Address, within 30 days of the change. If a sponsor fails to comply with this provision, he or she is subject to a penalty ranging from $250 to $2,000, unless the sponsor knew that the sponsored immigrant had received ‘means-tested public benefits’. In this instance the fine will range from $2,000 to $5,000. The law requires that sponsors also report their changes in address to the States in which the sponsored immigrants reside. USCIS will not assess penalties if sponsors have reported their address changes to USCIS.
51. Can Form I-134 Affidavit of Support continue to be submitted by immigrants?
No, beginning December 19, 1997, the old Affidavit of Support, Form I-134, can no longer be filed with applications for immigrant visas or adjustment of status by family or employment-based immigrants. The form will continue to be used for certain other groups of aliens such as parolees and nonimmigrants.
52. Should K-1 fiance visa applicants use the I-864 or the I-134?
Since fiancés are nonimmigrant visa applicants, they should use the Affidavit of Support, I-134. They will need to submit an I-864 to USCIS when they adjust status to conditional immigrant in the U.S. after they are married.
53. How do I file an Affidavit of Support?
You should complete Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, when your relative has been scheduled for an immigrant visa interview with a consular officer overseas or when your relative is about to submit an application for adjustment to permanent resident status with the USCIS or with an Immigration Court in the U.S. If you have a ‘joint sponsor’, the ‘joint sponsor’ must also complete USCIS Form I-864 at this time. If you are using the income of other household members to qualify, then each household member who is accepting legal responsibility for supporting your relative must complete a separate Form I-864A, Contract between Sponsor and Household Member.
54. How is the I-864 processing fee paid?
The National Visa Center (NVC) processes immigrant visa petitions after the USCIS approves them. When the immigrant visa case is current or about to become current, the NVC will send a bill to the petitioner asking him or her to pay an I-864 processing fee. The NVC will send the bill with an envelope with a bank address and instructions on where and how to pay the bill.
55. When does the NVC send the I-864?
After the bill has been paid, the NVC will send the I-864 Affidavit of Support to the petitioner for completion. The petitioner or sponsor will complete and sign the I-864 before a notary public. After the I-864 is complete, the petitioner should send it to the NVC using the envelope provided.
56. What does the NVC do with the I-864?
The NVC will review the I-864 Affidavit of Support for technical completeness and correctness. If the I-864 is not technically correct or complete, the NVC will ask the petitioner or sponsor to correct and complete the I-864 a second time. It will explain what is lacking in the previously submitted I-864.
Note: When a corrected I-864 is returned to the NVC, it will be sent to the embassy or consulate where the applicant will apply for a visa. The NVC will send it with the immigrant visa petition.
57. Does the NVC review I-864 Affidavits of Support for petitions filed at an embassy or consulate abroad?
No, the NVC only reviews I-864 Affidavits of Support for immigrant visa petitions filed at the USCIS office in the U.S. If the petition was filed at a post abroad or the petition was already at post when the NVC began to review I-864 Affidavits of Support, it will not review the I-864.
Note: Unless the NVC communicates with you about the I-864, it is not a part of the I-864 review process.
58. If the consular officer says the applicant needs a ‘joint sponsor’, does the ‘joint sponsor’ send the I-864 to the NVC for review?
No. If the post asks for a ‘joint sponsor’, the ‘joint sponsor’ should send the completed I-864 directly to the applicant. The applicant will submit the I-864 to the consular officer for review.
59. What is the pilot bond program?
The new immigration law requires that USCIS establish a pilot program in five USCIS district offices under which new immigrants would be required to post bonds in addition to the Affidavits of Financial Support filed by the petitioners or sponsors. The bonds are to be in an amount sufficient to cover the cost of certain benefits and would be in force until immigrants depart, naturalize, or die. Regulations to implement this pilot bond program are currently being prepared