Affidavit of Support for Family Based Immigration
An important component of any family based immigration process is “Affidavit of Support”. The Affidavit of Support is an affidavit that must be completed on Form I-864 by the Petitioner of an immigrant petition in a family based green card case, when the Beneficiary (sponsored family member) is eligible to apply for a green card. The Affidavit of Support is required for all family based cases, whether it’s a green card through marriage or a sibling sponsoring a sibling.
For the purposes of the Affidavit of Support the individual petitioning for their family member is also called the “sponsor”. The essence of the affidavit is to show the intending immigrant will have financial support, if necessary, in the United States and that the sponsor accepts financial responsibility for the intending immigrant.
Another important point of the affidavit is that it is a legally enforceable contract between the sponsor and the US government. If the Beneficiary should become a “public charge,” which would involve receiving certain types of “means-tested public benefits”, the sponsor could be required to reimburse any government agencies that provided “means-tested public benefits.
For examples of what might qualify or not qualify as a “means-tested public benefit,” please take a look at our more detailed Green Card Affidavit of Support explanation. In light of all of this, there are certain minimum income requirements that the Petitioner must meet as the financial sponsor in connection with an Affidavit of Support in order to qualify. However, if the Petitioner doesn’t meet the financial requirements, there is the option of obtaining a joint sponsor.
A joint sponsor is an individual that will sign a separate Affidavit of Support binding them to the same financial responsibilities as the primary sponsor, the Petitioner of an immigrant petition for a family member. The general idea of the joint sponsor is that along with the primary sponsor, these individuals will be financially responsible for the intending immigrant. The individual who is the petitioner of an immigrant petition will always need to sign an Affidavit of Support, even if a joint sponsor is required.
A joint sponsor must be at least 18 years old, must live in the United States, and must be either a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident of the United States. A joint sponsor does not need to be a family member of the primary sponsor or the intending immigrant, they only need to meet the requirements just described and will need to meet certain income requirements.
To establish that the intending immigrant will have adequate means of financial support in the United States, the joint sponsor must meet certain minimum income requirements. The income requirement is proving the joint sponsor’s income is at least 125% of the Department of Health and Human Services’ poverty guidelines based on the joint sponsor’s household size, which will include the intending immigrant. Along with providing a signed copy of the Affidavit of Support, the joint sponsor must submit their most recent U.S. federal income tax return and evidence of current employment and current income.
Below is the list of documents and evidence a joint sponsor would need to provide:
- Proof of U.S. Citizenship or permanent resident status (i.e. U.S. passport, U.S. birth certificate, naturalization certificate, certificate of citizenship, or copy of green card).
- Most recent federal income tax return or IRS tax return transcript.
- Relevant Forms W-2 , 1099, and/or K-1
- Letter from employer describing the joint sponsor’s employment (this may be adjusted if the joint sponsor is self-employed).
- Recent pay statements from joint sponsor’s employer (this may be adjusted if the joint sponsor is self-employed).
If it is the case that the joint sponsor’s income is insufficient to meet the poverty guidelines, the liquid assets of the joint sponsor can be used to supplement income. This can include money in checking and savings accounts, stocks, or bonds.
The general rule is assets that can quickly be converted into cash without real hardship to the joint sponsor can be included in the application. (Property can also be included but there’s a substantial amount of evidence that would need to be submitted as well, including an appraisal, and evidence on the amount of loans on the property.) The assets need to be equal to or be higher than five times the difference between the minimum income requirement (125% of the poverty level for the joint sponsor’s household size) and the joint sponsor’s income.
The Affidavit of Support is a legally enforceable contract between the joint sponsor and the U.S. government. The Affidavit of Support is a long term contract, which ends only if the foreign national becomes a U.S. citizen, earns 40 work quarters in the U.S. (which is approximately working for 10 years), permanently leaves the U.S., or, unfortunately, if the foreign national or joint sponsor were to die.