The Affidavit of Support is legally required for the petitioning sponsor for many family-based and some employment based immigrants to show the intending immigrant will have adequate means of support when planning to immigrate to the U.S. The purpose of the process is to prove that the intending immigrant has adequate means of financial support and is unlikely to become a public charge.
Public Charge refers to becoming dependent upon the government for the expenses of living (food shelter clothing etc.). Following U.S. immigration law an applicant is ineligible for a visa if he/she will be a public charge. For more information about Public Charge see the USCIS website.
As “petitioning sponsor” this means you have filed an immigrant petition which has been approved by USCIS. You have paid your Affidavit of Support processing fee and you have been contacted by the Department of State National Visa Center (NVC) with instructions. You are ready for the next step in the immigration process which is submit the I-864 Affidavit of Support and required supporting documents for the purpose of sponsoring the intending immigrant.
The I-864 Affidavit of Support is a contract between a sponsor and the U.S. Government. The legal basis for the I-864 Affidavit of Support is Section 213A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Sponsor and Alien Liability
Under section 213 of the Act if the person you are sponsoring becomes a public charge the agency that provides assistance may be able to sue you to recover the cost of the assistance.
In addition to that provision your income and assets may be combined with the income and assets of the person you are sponsoring in determining whether that person is eligible for Food Stamps 7 U.S.C. 2014(i)(1) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) 42 U.S.C. 1382j and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) 42 U.S.C. 608.
A sponsor must be at least 18 years old and either an American citizen or a lawful permanent resident (LPR). The sponsor must also have a domicile (residence) in the United States.
Domicile is a complex concept and must be evaluated on a case by case basis. To qualify as a sponsor a petitioner residing abroad must have a principal residence in the U.S. and intend to maintain it indefinitely. Lawful permanent resident (LPR) sponsors must show they are maintaining their LPR status.
Many U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents reside outside the United States on a temporary basis. “Temporary” may cover an extended period of residence abroad. The sponsor living abroad must establish the following in order to be considered domiciled in the United States:
- He/she left the United States for a limited and not indefinite period of time
- He/she intended to maintain a domicile in the United States and
- He/she has evidence of continued ties to the United States.
Income Requirements and Poverty Guidelines
The Poverty Guidelines in effect on the filing date of an Affidavit of Support are used to determine whether the income requirement is met. For example the effective date of the 2006 Poverty Guidelines was March 1 2006. So an I-864 filed on February 1 2006 was subject to the 2005 Poverty Guidelines.
Initial evidence of sufficient income includes:
- Copies of three (3) most recent years of tax returns that the sponsor filed with Internal Revenue Service. If the sponsor does not have copies of these records he or she will need to provide an explanation as to why the tax returns were not filed. If the sponsor filed a joint tax return and are using only their own income to qualify to sponsor then it will be required to submit copies of W-2s for the most recent three (3) tax years.
- If the sponsor has other income sources such as members of household or dependents in order to reach the minimum income requirement it will be required to include their federal income tax returns for the three (3) most recent years. In using other income sources it will be required each person complete Form I-864a which is a contract between the sponsor and household member.
- Proof of current employment or self-employment will need to be provided. Copies of recent pay stubs or employment verification statement from the employer on company letterhead that states the start date of employment work performed and current salary.
- Statement from an officer of the bank or other financial institutions with deposits identifying the following details regarding the account:
- Date account opened
- Total amount deposited for the past year; and
- Present balance
- Statement(s) of your employer on business stationery showing:
- Date and nature of employment
- Salary paid; and
- Whether the position is temporary or permanent
- If self-employed:
- Copy of last income tax return filed; or
- Report of commercial rating concern.
- List containing serial numbers and denominations of bonds and name of record owner(s)
It is important to complete and include all the necessary supporting documents when submitting your affidavit of support. Failure to completely fill out Form I-864 or not include the appropriate documents as supporting evidence could result in denial of the application.
The National Visa Center (NVC) may require the sponsor to provide additional information or evidence before approval of the affidavit of support.
If the sponsor’s income meets the minimum Federal poverty guideline income requirement other assets generally need not be presented. However the consular officer may request evidence of assets and liabilities as necessary to determine eligibility.
Copies of documents
Unless specifically required that an original document be filed with an application or petition an ordinary legible photocopy (standard 8 1/2 x 11 letter size) may be submitted. Original documents submitted when not required will remain a part of the record.
How is the I-864 processing fee paid?
The National Visa Center (NVC) processes immigrant visa petitions after the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security (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/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.
When does the NVC send instructions about the I-864 I-864W I-864EZ and I-864A?
After the bill has been paid the NVC will send a letter with instructions to the petitioner.
Signing and Submitting the Forms
The petitioner/sponsor will complete and sign the I-864 I-864W I-864EZ or I-864A as appropriate. Make sure you carefully review and follow the Checklist-Guidelines for the Preparing the Affidavit of Support Forms to make sure you have completed everything. Affidavit of Support forms that are incomplete or have not been assembled correctly will not be accepted. After the appropriate form with documentation is complete the petitioner should send it to the National Visa Center.
What does the NVC do with the I-864?
The NVC will review the I-864 I-864EZ I-864W or I-864A for technical completeness and correctness. If the form(s) is not technically correct or complete the NVC will ask the petitioner/sponsor to correct and complete the applicable form a second time. It will explain what is lacking in the previously submitted form. When a corrected I-864 I-864EZ I-864W or I-864A 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.