When U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents wish to bring family members into the United States, the process is usually commenced by filing Form I-130. Often times persons review the instructions for Form I-130 and assume the process is straight forward, simple and easy. This leads many to file Form I-130 without seeking guidance from an experienced immigration lawyer. Unfortunately, we come into contact with persons who have entered this complex process alone and have encountered burdensome requests from USCIS. One common stage that we are asked to assist with is the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support.
Form I-864, Affidavit of Support must be filed to show the U.S. Government that the petitioner/beneficiary has sufficient income or assets to support themselves upon admittance into the United States. The following provides answers to commonly asked questions about Form I-864, Affidavit of Support.
- What is the purpose of the affidavit of support? The affidavit of support helps ensure that new immigrants will not need to rely on public benefits such as Food Stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. If a person for whom you file an affidavit of support becomes a permanent resident and is later given certain public benefits, the agency that gave the benefits can require that you repay that money.
- Who has to have an affidavit of support in order to immigrate? Anyone applying to be a permanent resident through a family member must have a financial sponsor. A sponsor is also required for a family member coming to work for a relative, or for a company in which a relative owns 5 percent or more of the company. The person filing the petition sponsoring the person’s immigration must file an affidavit of support. If he or she does not, then their sponsorship is not complete, and the person will not be given permission to immigrate based on that petition.
- What are the financial qualifications for an affidavit of support? The law requires a sponsor to prove an income level at or above 125 percent of the Federal poverty level. (For active duty military personnel, the income requirement is 100 percent of the poverty level when sponsoring a husband, wife, or children.) If your income does not meet the requirement, your assets such as checking and savings accounts, stocks, bonds, or property may be considered in determining your financial ability. Federal poverty levels are updated each year by the Department of Health and Human Services.
- If I do not meet the minimum income requirement can, Can anyone else be a financial sponsor? If you do not meet the financial qualifications, the income of certain other household members can be added to your income level if they sign a contract on Form I-864A, Affidavit of Support Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member, agreeing to make their income or assets available for the support of the relative applying for permanent residence. If you still cannot meet the financial qualifications, another person must complete a separate affidavit of support to become a joint financial sponsor of the person’s immigration. The joint sponsor must meet all sponsorship requirements separately, including the minimum income requirements for his or her household, and must be willing to assume, along with you, financial liability for the sponsored immigrant(s). All sponsors must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents, be at least 18 years old, and be living in the United States (including territories and possessions) when they file the affidavit of support.
- When and how do I file the affidavit of support? You do not need to file it with your I-130 petition. When the person reaches the front of the line to immigrate based on your I-130 petition, he or she will have to submit the affidavit of support with an application for an immigrant visa or permanent residence. Just follow the instructions for the affidavit and submit all the necessary supporting documents with the visa or residence application at that time.
- What if a person I financially sponsor gets public benefits after becoming a permanent resident? If a sponsor does not provide basic support to the immigrants they sponsor, the sponsored immigrants, or the Federal or State agency that gave the benefits to the family members, can seek reimbursement of the funds through legal action against the sponsor.
- When does my financial responsibility end? An affidavit of support is enforceable against the sponsor until the person they sponsored either: Becomes a U.S. citizen; or Is credited with 40 quarters of work in the United States (usually 10 years); or Leaves the United States permanently; or Dies.
If you have questions about Form I-864, Affidavit of Support or are in need of assistance to properly complete this often-complex process, contact us today to see how we can help you.