I-864 Affidavit of Support

The rhetoric around immigrants coming to the U.S. and being a burden on the system is one that has been around since the beginning of immigration in this country. Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, is essentially a contract between a U.S.-based sponsor and the U.S. government where the sponsor promises that won’t happen. By following the I-864 instructions, the sponsor has to prove that the immigrant will not be a burden and that the sponsor has the financial ability to support them. This one form can make or break your petition, and this hope will help you get one step closer to approval.

What is the I-864?

Form I-864, Affidavit of Support under Section 213A of the INA, needs to be filed with the Department of Homeland Security if you are a U.S. citizen (or legal permanent resident) planning to sponsor a spouse or family member coming to live in the United States.

The sponsor is defined as the person who filed the petition on behalf of the immigrant. The financial responsibility is enforceable until either the immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen or is “credited with 40 quarters of work,” which typically comes out to about ten years.

If you submit an I-864 for marriage green card purposes, even if you get a divorce the financial sponsorship obligation does not dissolve until the time frame has elapsed or the sponsored individual dies or leaves the United States. That being said, it is not something to be taken lightly, and you should carefully consider if you are willing to sponsor the immigrant long-term.

Who is Required to Submit Form I-864?

All immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen who fall under one of the following preference categories are required to submit Form I-864:

  • First Preference: Unmarried adult sons or daughters (21 or older) of U.S. citizens
  • Second Preference: Unmarried sons or daughters and spouses of permanent residents as well as their unmarried children
  • Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, along with their spouses and unmarried minor children
  • Fourth Preference: Siblings of adult U.S. citizens, along with their spouse and unmarried minor children
  • Select Employment-Based Preference: Some immigrants in certain employment-based categories would need to file if a U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative filed their petition or their relative has “significant ownership interest 5% or more in the entity that filed the petition” 

There are exclusions where an individual in one of the aforementioned preference categories would not need to file Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. To qualify for the exclusion, they would need to demonstrate one of the following:

I-864P, HHS Poverty Guidelines

There is an income requirement that the sponsor, joint sponsor, or substitute sponsor has to meet. It is based on the U.S. poverty level guidelines and the number of individuals living in the household. To qualify, you need to show income equal to or higher than 125% of the U.S. poverty level for your household. A household includes you and any dependents and relatives living with you along with the immigrant you are petitioning. You can find the income requirements on the I-864p.

Below are the 2021 Poverty Guidelines for the 48 contiguous States. If the only people residing in the household are the sponsor and the intending immigrant relative, then the minimum annual income to qualify is $21,775. The exceptions to this rule are if you don’t live in the 48 contiguous states and are not on active military duty.

Poverty Guidelines for 48 Contiguous States

Household Size

100% of HHS Poverty Guidelines

125% of HHS Poverty Guidelines

2

$17,420

$21,775

3

$21,960

$27,450

4

$26,500

$33,125

5

$31,040

$38,800

6

$35,580

$44,475

7

$40,120

$50,150

8

$44,660

$55,825

9+

Add $4,450 for each additional person

Add $5,675 for each additional person

Poverty Guidelines for Alaska

Household Size

100% of HHS Poverty Guidelines

125% of HHS Poverty Guidelines

2

$21,770

$27,212

3

$27,450

$34,312

4

$33,130

$41,412

5

$38,810

$48,512

6

$44,490

$55,612

7

$50,170

$62,712

8

$55,850

$69,812

9+

Add $5,680 for each additional person

Add $7,100 for each additional person

Poverty Guidelines for Hawaii

Household Size

100% of HHS Poverty Guidelines

125% of HHS Poverty Guidelines

2

$20,040

$25,050

3

$25,260

$31,575

4

$30,480

$38,100

5

$35,700

$44,625

6

$40,920

$51,150

7

$46,140

$57,675

8

$51,360

$64,200

9+

Add $5,220 for each additional person

Add $6,525 for each additional person

For individuals on active duty or the Armed Forces, who are sponsoring an immigrant spouse or child, the income needs to be equal to 100% of the U.S poverty level based on household size.

Supporting Documents to Submit with Form I-864

While the exact supporting documents may vary depending on your case, here are what all sponsors are required to submit:

  • Copy of individual Federal income tax return
  • Any W-2s or statements
  • Form 1099 or any statements of reported income
  • Evidence of income/assets

You may be required to submit these documents from multiple past years. If you are self-employed, be prepared to provide copies of your Schedule C, D, E, or F. You can see the most accurate list of documents you need to provide here. Making an error when filing your Affidavit of Support can cause substantial delays and often rejections if not filed properly. For that reason, it is always advisable to have an experienced immigration lawyer carefully review your case and submit the appropriate documentation to USCIS.

I-864 Instructions

Part 1: Basis for Filing Affidavit of Support

The first section of the form has you establish why you are filing the affidavit of support. If you are the petitioner and filing it for your immigrant relative, check box 1.a. If you filed an alien work permit on behalf of your relative, check box 1.b. and indicate what your relationship to them is. If you filed an alien worker permit for the immigrant relative but do not personally employ them but are in charge of over 5 percent, then check box 1.c. If you are one of two or the only joint sponsor, you will select box 1.d. or 1.e. Finally, if the original petitioner is deceased and act as the substitute sponsor, check 1.f.

Part 2: Information About the Principal Immigrant

The second section asks for details about the immigrant you are petitioning including their name, mailing address, date of birth, and phone number.

Part 3: Information About the Immigrants You Are Sponsoring

Section three asks you questions about the total number of family members you will be sponsoring in the affidavit. Check yes in question 1 of part 4 if you are sponsoring the immigrant you named in part 2 but check no if you are the second of two joint sponsors. You will then need to fill out the names and personal details of each family member in addition to the principal immigrant (if applicable). Be sure not to include a family member if they have not been listed on a separate I-120 petition. The last question in section 3 asks you to enter the number of immigrants you are sponsoring on the affidavit including the principal immigrant relative.

Part 4: Information About You

You (the sponsor) are asked your full name, mailing address, date of birth, Social Security number, and other details pertaining to your citizenship. To be approved as the sponsor, the U.S. needs to be your country of domicile. There are exceptions which are listed below in the Frequently Asked Questions section. If you are a member of the United States military, be sure to include that in this section.

Part 5: Sponsor’s Household Size

How many people are living in your household? This question is asked to make sure you can care for the relative immigrant financially. Be sure to include any dependent children if you have sponsored other people on Form I-864 who are now lawful permanent residents. Also include if you have siblings, parents, or adult children living in your residence whose income is combined on Form I-864A.

Part 6: Sponsor’s Employment and Income

This section is relatively straightforward. You will need to indicate whether you are employed, the name of your employer(s), annual income, occupation, and information about anyone else who is combining their income with yours to sponsor the immigrant relative. Be aware that you will need to provide copies of Federal income tax returns, so always be accurate in your answers.

Part 7: Use of Assets to Supplement Income

If you are using the value of assets you possess to supplement your income to meet the financial requirements, you will need to disclose that information in this section. Scroll down to the Frequently Asked Questions to learn how to calculate your assets’ necessary value to meet the financial requirements.

Part 8,9 and 10: Sponsor/Interpreter/Preparer’s Contact, Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, Certification, and Signature

If you filed out the entire form by yourself and can certify that you read and understand English and all the questions asked, check 1.a. If you had an interpreter read you all the questions in your language, check 1.b. and you will be asked to name them the individual in Part 9 and the interpreter will need to sign box 7.a. and date it. If someone else answered all the questions at your request and based on the information you provided them then, check box 2. The preparer will need to sign and date 8.a. By signing, they certify under penalty of perjury that the information is complete and correct based on the information the sponsor provided.

Part 11: Additional Information

You should write any additional information in this section that didn’t fit on other parts of the form.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who needs to file I-864?

If you are a U.S. citizen (or legal permanent resident) planning to sponsor a spouse or family member coming to live in the United States, then you need to file I-864. It is very commonly required in marriage green card cases to demonstrate that you can financially support your spouse, and they will not become a financial burden to the U.S. government.

What can I do if I do not meet the income requirements?

If you are not able to meet the minimum income requirements, you have a few options. The first is to add the cash value of assets you possess, including savings accounts, property, bonds, or stocks. The necessary value of assets required for you to qualify is calculated by subtracting your household income from the minimum income requirement. The cash value of your assets needs to be worth at least five times the difference. You could, for example, include the net value of your home as an asset. To calculate the net value, you would take the appraised value and subtract any mortgages or amounts not paid back yet. Likewise, you could take the net value of your car by subtracting any loans from the market value.

 If the intending immigrant is the spouse of a child (18 or older) of a U.S. citizen then the minimum cash value of the assets needs to be three times the difference of the household income and 125% of the poverty guideline. The other exception is if the immigrant coming to the U.S. is an orphan being petitioned by U.S. adoptive parents. In that case, the assets need to equal or exceed the difference between 125% of the poverty line and the household income.

Other options, if you cannot meet the minimum income requirements, include the assets or income of people in your household that are your dependents. To take advantage of this option, the person must be listed as a dependent on your recent federal tax return and must have lived with you past six months. The last option is the count the assets of the relative you are sponsoring.

Can foreign income count for the income requirement?

If you as the sponsor live outside of the U.S., you cannot count the foreign income towards the requirement unless you can demonstrate that you will have the same earnings when you move to the U.S. or have another job that meets the financial requirements.

Can I submit I-864 electronically?

Form I-864 is accessible via the Consular Electronic Application Center. You can also file it directly with USCIS along with your I-130 or I-129F and send it to the USCIS Chicago lockbox. The National Visa Center (NVC) will review all Affidavits of Support submitted to ensure they are complete. If the form is not complete, the NVC sends a message through to the CEAC asking the filer to correct and then resubmit the form. It is recommended to complete the Affidavit of Support with all answers typed in capital letters and submitted along with the appropriate supporting evidence.

What is a substitute sponsor?

A substitute sponsor comes into play if the visa petitioner dies after the approval of the visa petition. The substitute sponsor would essentially take the place of the original deceased sponsor, but they must be related to the intending immigrant. People who would qualify include spouse, daughter, son, parent, mother or father-in-law, legal guardian, grandchild, etc. In addition to being related to the intending immigrant, they must also be:

  • A U.S. citizen, national or permanent resident
  • At least 18 years old
  • Live in the United States
  • Meet the financial income requirements to sponsor the immigrant

Note that if you agree to be a substitute sponsor, you also inherit all the responsibilities and obligations of an I-864 sponsor.

What is a joint sponsor I-864?

A joint sponsor is someone willing to share the responsibility of the intending immigrant along with the primary sponsoring petitioner. They must meet the financial requirements (125% income requirement alone). They do not, however, need to be related to the immigrant.

Who is considered a member of my household?

You need to take into consideration when calculating the number of people in your household yourself, the immigrant you are sponsoring, children under the age of 21 (unmarried) who live with you, anyone you claim as a dependent on a tax return, anybody else you are sponsoring on different Affidavit of Support and if the person you are petitioning is bringing anyone with them they would need to be included as well.

What can I include in my total income calculation?

You can include the following sources of income to calculate your total income:

  • salaries and wages
  • retirement benefits
  • alimony
  • child support
  • dividends
  • interest earned
  • any other income

Note that your total income will also be the same number on line 9 of IRS Form 1040 for the 2021 tax filing year.

Can my immigrant relative’s income be counted towards the financial requirement?

Yes, you can include the income of the relative you are petitioning to meet the requirement assuming that they will continue earning that same amount after coming to the United States. You can also use the value of their assets even if the assets are outside of the U.S. There are additional requirements to use foreign assets, however. They must be considered liquid or easily made into cash within a year. The assets must be able to move to the United States. The assets’ total value must equal five times the difference of the sponsor’s income and poverty guidelines. So, for example, if the difference is $10,000, then the total value of the assets must be a minimum of $50,000.

Is free housing considered income?

If the sponsor is getting a free house, a house allowance, or any other benefits, that can be counted as income. Evidence of this income does need to be provided, such as Form W-2 or Form 1099.

If I get a divorce and I off the hook for financially supporting my immigrant spouse?

Unfortunately, even if you get a divorce, the financial sponsorship obligation does not dissolve until the immigrant either becomes a U.S. citizen or is credited with 40 quarters of work (comes out to about ten years), or the sponsored individual dies/ leaves the United States.

What happens if I change my address after becoming a sponsor?

If you change your address after becoming a sponsor, you are required by law to notify USCIS within 30 days using this form; otherwise, you could be fined.

What is “income deeming”?

Income deeming is the process in which a sponsored immigrant may be “ineligible for certain federal, state or local means-tested public benefits because an agency will consider the resources and assets of the sponsor (and the sponsor’s household member, if applicable) when determining the immigrant’s eligibility for the means-tested public benefits program.”

Can employment abroad be considered a U.S. domicile?

If you are a U.S. citizen but currently living outside of the United States, some types of employment can be considered U.S. domicile. These include:

  • Jobs temporarily stationed overseas with the U.S. government
  • Jobs temporarily station overseas with a U.S institution of research recognized by the Secretary of Homeland Security
  • Jobs temporarily station overseas with a U.S. firm or corporation (or subsidiary) in the development of foreign trade/commerce with the U.S.
  • Jobs temporarily station overseas with a public international organization where the U.S. engages by treaty or statute
  • Jobs temporarily station overseas with a religious denomination or group having a bonafide organization within the U.S.
  • Jobs temporarily station overseas as a missionary by a religious denomination or group within the United States

If my relative’s interview is delayed, will the I-864 expire?

No, the form will not expire and is considered ‘indefinite’ from the time the sponsor signs it.

Are any other factors taken into consideration for my case’s approval?

Although you may meet the minimum financial requirements, the fate of your case is in the hands of the consular officer, who will review the totality of your situation to gauge the immigrant’s probability of becoming a public charge. Other factors include the health, age, skills, and status of both the sponsor and intending immigrant.

How long does it take to process I-864?

While processing times can vary, especially with pandemic backlogs taken into account, the processing time for an Affidavit of Support can take six weeks or longer. After the NVC receives it, they will review it along with your supporting documents for completeness. Be aware that if any of the information is not correct or left blank, this can significantly delay your case. If you need to correct something on your form, the NVC will contact you and ask you to correct the form. Once they receive the correct forms, the NVC will send them to the corresponding U.S. embassy/consulate.

How much does form I-864 cost?

There is no filing fee to file the I-864 with USCIS. When filing with the U.S. Department of State (DOS), see www.travel.state.gov for information on processing fees.

What is the difference between I-864 and I-864EZ?

The I-864EZ is a shorter version of the I-864. You can use Form I-854EZ only if all of the following factors apply to you:

  1. You filed Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for the relative immigrant you are sponsoring
  2. The alien relative you are sponsoring is the only person listed on the I-130
  3. The income you earn that is qualifying you to sponsor the person is entirely your own salary or pension and can be proved with IRS W-2 forms provided by your current or former employers

If any of the following conditions apply, then you should NOT use I-864EZ and instead use Form I-864:

  • The relative you want to sponsor is not the only person immigrating to the U.S. on that visa petition
  • You are filing an I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, for your relative
  • You are a joint sponsor
  • The original I-130 petitioner is deceased and you are acting as a substitute sponsor
  • You do not meet the financial requirements based on the Federal Poverty Guidelines