NEWS

You Need This Form I-864 Affidavit of Support to Sponsor a Family Member

The US government, including USCIS and the US Department of State, require most petitioners who file for legal permanent residency (or “green card status”) for their family members to file a contract with the government agreeing to take care of their family members financially.  Found under Section 213A of the INA, this contract is called the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, and is required whether the family member is filing to adjust status in the US (Form I-485) or applying for an immigrant visa at a US consulate abroad.

The Form I-864 Is a Contract with the Government

Form I-864 is a legally enforceable contract that ensures that the intending immigrant will not rely on the US government for financial support. By signing Form I-864, the signator (either the petitioning family member or a co-sponsor) agrees to use their financial resources to support the intending immigrant and to reimburse any government agency or private entity that provides the sponsored immigrant with federal, state, or local means-tested public benefits. They must have a household income equal to at least 125% of the federal poverty level for their household size and they must support the sponsored immigrant at 125% of the federal poverty level.  Also, they must show that they have filed their federal income tax returns for the last three years if required to do so.

The Form I-864 financial sponsor becomes liable under the contract once the immigrant becomes a lawful permanent resident (green card holder). The sponsor’s responsibility typically lasts until the immigrant becomes a US citizen or is credited with 40 quarters of work, which is usually equivalent to 10 years. The sponsor’s responsibility also ends if the sponsor or the individual sponsored dies, or if the individual sponsored ceases to be a lawful permanent resident and departs the US.

If Form I-864 was filed based on marriage, the sponsor’s obligations do not terminate upon divorce.

Who Must File an I-864 Affidavit of Support

All US citizens and US legal permanent residents filing a Form I-130 immigrant visa petition on behalf of a qualifying family member are legally required to submit Form I-864. The categories for family petitions are:

  • Immediate relatives – spouses, unmarried children under 21 years of age, and parents of US citizens 21 years of age and older;
  • First preference (F1) – unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age and older) of U.S. citizens;
  • Second preference (F2A) – spouses and children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of lawful permanent residents;
  • Second preference (F2B) – unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age and older) of lawful permanent residents;
  • Third preference (F3) – married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; and
  • Fourth preference (F4) – brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age and older).

There are a few exceptions to these rules. The following types of petitioners and immigrants are exempt from filing Form I-864:

  • A person who earned 40 qualifying quarters (credits) of work in the US.
  • A person who will obtain US citizenship under Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which establishes that a child who was born outside of the US automatically becomes a US citizen if one of their parents is a US citizen, they are under 18 years of age, they are a lawful permanent resident, and they live in the US in their citizen parent’s custody.
  • Self-petitioning widows or widowers who have an approved Form I-360, ‘Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant’.
  • Self-petitioning battered spouses and children who have an approved Form I-360.

If the intending immigrant qualifies for one of the four exemptions above, then they must submit Form I-864W, ‘Intending Immigrant’s Affidavit of Support Exemption’ with their Form I-485.

Eligibility Requirements for the Form I-864

For most family-based immigration applications, the applicant needs at least one sponsor to file Form I-864, ‘Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA’. The sponsor must be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen, national, or lawful permanent resident who lives in the U.S. By completing and signing this form, the sponsor agrees to use their financial resources to support the applicant, if necessary. The sponsor must prove that they have enough income and/or assets to keep the applicant and the rest of their household at 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. If the sponsor’s income is equal to or higher than 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, then they do not need to submit evidence of their assets.

 

As of March 1, 2024, for the 48 contiguous states, 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for a household size of two is $25,550. For additional person in the household, you should add $6,725. The household size includes the sponsor, their spouse, their dependent children under 21 years of age, other dependents listed on their most recent Federal income tax return, all people being sponsored in the Form I-864, and any other immigrants that the sponsor has previously sponsored and continue to sponsor. For more information about the poverty guidelines, visit the USCIS website: https://www.uscis.gov/i-864p.

Joint Sponsors of the Form I-864 Affidavit of Support

The primary sponsor for Form I-864 is the petitioner who filed the Form I-130 immigrant visa petition on behalf of their relative. However, if the petitioner does not earn enough money or assets, the immigrant can also use one or two joint sponsors in their application. The joint sponsor does not have to be related to the immigrant. The requirements are the same for the joint sponsor and the primary sponsor. The sponsor may also be able to use the income of their household members if those members are at least 18 years old and complete and sign Form I-864A, ‘Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member’ (except that the sponsored immigrant who is also the household member does not sign the Form I-864A.)

Please contact Attorney Monique Kornfeld for legal advice about family-based petitions.