The K-1 visa is a nonimmigrant classification issued to a foreign national to travel to the U.S. for the purpose of getting married to his or her U.S. citizen fiancé(e). The K-1 visa application is filed by the U.S. citizen on behalf of the foreign national.
The visa, if granted, has a 90-day validity period within which the U.S. citizen and the foreign national must get married. As the petitioning fiancé(e), there are several requirements that are needed to prove that you are eligible to sponsor the visa. One of them is to demonstrate that you have sufficient income to support your fiancé(e) when he or she gets into the U.S.
How to File K-1 Visa Income Requirements
Income requirements for a K-1 visa are usually submitted twice by the petitioning U.S. citizen fiancé(e). The first time will be during the consular process to bring the beneficiary fiancé(e) from his or her foreign country into the United States. The second time will be during the K-1 adjustment of status process.
Here are the different forms and requirements for each of the two stages:
I-134 Affidavit of Support
The I-134 Affidavit of Support is the first income form that must be submitted as part of the initial process to bring a beneficiary fiancé(e) from a foreign country into the United States. The I-134 is used by every nonimmigrant sponsor for a K-1 visa.
Before the embassy or consulate in your fiancé(e)’s home country will issue a K-1 visa, the petitioner must demonstrate that the beneficiary will not become a public charge after arriving in the United States. The petitioners’ financial ability is measured by the HHS poverty guideline. You must be able to show that your income meets the poverty guidelines for that particular year.
If your K-1 visa application is approved, your fiancé(e) will be issued a nonimmigrant visa to come into the United States.
I-864, Affidavit of Support
Now that your fiancé(e) is already in the U.S., you will be expected to get married within 90 days of his or her arrival. For your fiancé(e) to continue living in the U.S. lawfully, he or she will need to file for adjustment of status. At this point, you will need to submit another affidavit of support.
However, this will require another form entirely: the I-864. This affidavit is to show that you have the financial ability to support your alien fiancé(e) after they become a lawful permanent resident. The threshold is a little higher than that of the I-134. For the I-864, you must show that your income is at least 25% higher than the HHS poverty guideline for that year.
Signing the affidavit of support means you are willing to accept legal responsibility for the financial wellbeing of your K-1 spouse until he or she becomes a citizen or is credited with 40 quarters of social security coverage. Until either of these two conditions is met by your spouse, you will be bound by this affidavit.
Not even divorce can end your sponsorship obligation, as you could be called upon to repay any debt incurred by him or her for any means-tested benefits. You will need to provide supporting evidence to demonstrate you meet this requirement. You will be required to provide your U.S. federal income tax return and your proof of current employment.
The tax return must be for the most recent tax year. If you can’t provide tax return for the required period, you will need to provide an explanation. Otherwise, your spouse’s application will not be processed by USCIS.
K-1 Visa Income Requirements: Understanding the Poverty Guideline Chart
The HHS poverty guideline for the affidavit of support is issued annually to help visa sponsors determine the minimum wage required of them to be qualified as petitioners. This will be calculated using the number of the members of your household, which include yourself and dependent children, your K-1 spouse, any immigrant(s) you’ve sponsored in the past, and your K-1 spouse’s children (if applicable).
Apart from your own personal income, the income of the members of your household related to you by birth, marriage, or adoption may be counted as part of your household income. However, the household member whose income will be added to yours must have been listed as a dependent in your most recent federal tax return or have been living with you for the last six months.
According to the 2019 edition, as a sponsor, if you are living in any of the 48 contiguous states, your household income is required to meet HHS poverty guidelines as follows:
|Household Size||100% of HHS Poverty Guidelines||125% of HHS Poverty Guidelines|
|Active duty U.S. armed forces||All other sponsors|
|+$4,420 for each additional person||+$5,525 for each additional person.|
If you are based in Alaska or Hawaii, where the cost of living is higher, the required amount for a household of 2 members is $26,412 and $24,325 while the required amount for each additional person is $6,912 and $6,350 respectively. If you are active in the U.S. armed forces, you will add $5,530 and $5,080 for each additional person respectively.
What if I Can’t Meet the Minimum Income Requirements?
If you can’t meet the income requirements, there are two options available to you. These include using the cash value of your assets and having a joint sponsor.
Using Your Assets
The cash value of the assets belonging to your household may be added to help you meet the requirements. The assets must, however, worth at least three times the difference between your actual household income and the income requirement.
For example, say you reside in Florida and have a household of 4 members; that means your minimum income requirement is $32,662. If the total household income is $25,000, you would have a difference of $7,662 to meet up. Therefore, in order to use your assets, your asset cash value must be at least times three times $7,662, which is equal to $22,986. The accepted assets include the net value of your property (e.g. home, car), money in a savings account, bonds, and stocks.
Having a Joint Sponsor
Having a joint sponsor is another way of meeting the K-1 visa income requirements. A joint sponsor is any qualified person who is ready to accept the “legal responsibility” of jointly supporting your family with you. The person must meet the same requirements as you, which includes meeting the 125% income requirement. Note though, that it isn’t compulsory for the joint sponsor to be a family member.
Fiancé Visa Denials
In years past, the K-1 category used to be one of the most accessible nonimmigrant visas. However, due to the recent changes in immigration rules by the current administration and cases of reported abuse by its holders, immigration officers are now scrutinizing K-1 visa cases more closely.
Up until 2015, the fiancée visa approval rate was about 99%, but it started dropping drastically to 80% in 2016. By 2018, it has been cut down to 66%. This means a concerted effort must be made by the two parties to ensure due compliance when filing the petition. The following are some of the top causes of a K-1 visa denial:
- Past conviction of certain crimes by either of the two parties
- Failure by the petitioning spouse to show evidence of income requirements
- Violation of immigration laws in the past
- Previous K-1 visa petitions filed by the petitioner for another beneficiary or vice versa – a U.S. citizen must not have filed more than two K-1 visas in the past.
- If the beneficiary fiancé(e) has a communicable disease that could threaten public health
- Failure to prove that previous marriage(s) have been legally terminated
- Falsifying supporting evidence. This will lead not only to denial, but also severe penalties and possibly criminal prosecution.
- Failure to comply with the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act, if applicable
Understanding the Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA)
IMBRA was enacted to check abuse of marriage-based visa holders. A marriage broker is a non-profit entity, commonly dating sites, established to connect U.S. citizens to foreign nationals for the purpose of marriage. IMBRA was enacted in 2005 but not really enforced until the recent increase in the K-1 visa abuse.
If you met your fiancée online, you would need to provide the details about the website including how and when you met there. The details must also include a signed copy of a written consent form showing that the alien fiancé(e) authorized the website or agency to release his or her personal contact information to you. This U.S. Department of State’s website contains all you need to know about the IMBRA guidelines as part of your K-1 visa process.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
The fiancé(e) visa application is a complicated process and the income requirement is just one of the many highly scrutinized aspects of the visa. The best thing to do is to consult an expert immigration attorney to help you file your petition and professionally handle all other complexities surrounding the process.
At Immi-USA, we have a team of experienced K-1 visa attorneys who have successfully helped countless people file their K-1 application, show proof of the K-1 income requirement, and acquire their green cards. To get in touch with our office, you can schedule an appointment with us today by filling out this contact form.