U.S. citizen petitioners who sponsor an applicant for Adjustment of Status, a K-1 “fiance” visa or an immigrant visa must submit a USCIS form called an ‘Affidavit of Support’ (form I-864) before the adjustment can be finalized at the local USCIS district office or, in the case of a K-1 or immigrant visa application, at the U.S. consulate abroad. The purpose of the Affidavit of Support under INA §213(A) is to provide the U.S. government reliable evidence that the adjustment or immigrant visa applicant will not seek public-charge benefits (e.g., Medicare, AFDC, Supplemental Security Income) during (generally) the first 10 years of the applicant’s presence in the United States or until they naturalize to U.S. citizenship.
The qualifying amount of income is 125% of the Department of Health and Human Services’ most recent federal poverty guidelines for the sponsor’s household size (100% for active duty military). you can find 2015 poverty guidelines here.
The qualifying level of assets, if annual income is insufficient to meet the requirement, is five (5) times the amount of the shortfall between income and the minimum income requirement per household size. For example, if the sponsor or joint sponsor can demonstrate an annual income of $20,000, yet the minimum requirement (in 2015) is $35,512.50 (for a hypothetical household of five: $28,410 x 125% – see the guidelines), then the sponsor must additionally show individual ownership of assets equal to five (5) times the shortfall of $15,512.50, or approximately $77,562.50 in assets owned.
The multiplier is reduced to three (3) if the sponsor is the immigrant beneficiary’s spouse.
It is important to understand the legal consequences of filing an Affidavit of Support. In essence, the document is a contract between the sponsor and the government which obligates the sponsor to offer financial support the immigrant during their first 40 quarters (10 years) in the U.S., at a level which is intended to prevent the foreign relative from becoming eligible for any state or federal means-tested public benefit offered by any local, state or federal agency if the immigrant were to require such benefits.
To the extent the immigrant’s income does fall below acceptable levels during the ten year period, the immigrant would still be eligible for public-charge benefits. However, the local, state or federal government agency that distributes such means-tested benefits could then rely upon the Affidavit of Support to claim repayment from the Affidavit of Support sponsor if they failed to provide the necessary financial support to the immigrant.
The sponsor’s obligation of financial support terminates when the immigrant accrues forty (40) qualifying quarters of earned income in the United States per social security rules (maxed at 10 years), or if either the sponsor or immigrant dies, or if and when the immigrant naturalizes to U.S. citizenship. Importantly, divorce between the I-130 petitioner and the immigrant does not terminate the sponsor’s affidavit of support requirement.
Documents to be provided with the I-864 Affidavit of Support in order to evidence sufficient annual income of the sponsor must include the following:
- Federal income tax returns and W-2 forms (or an official IRS transcript) for the most recent tax year filed (three most recent years if current year income is insufficient or barely above current guidelines)
- If self-employed, form 1099s for past three years and a copy of a business license
- If retired and relying upon social security benefits, form SSA-1099 for the past year’s benefits (or three most recent years if current year benefits are insufficient)
- Copies of at least three recent paycheck stubs or direct deposit receipts
- An original letter of employment verification, which states the sponsor’s job title, salary, weekly hours, duration of employment, and is signed in original ink by a supervisor or manager. This letter should be printed on the employer’s business letterhead.
The above documents are not exclusive and the sponsor should always strive to submit the best documentary evidence available of steady and sufficient income to meet the guidelines.
If the Affidavit of Support sponsor (or joint sponsor) claims a sufficient amount of assets rather than income in order to meet the minimum requirements, the supporting documents vary with the assets claimed. At a minimum, the documents must verify the sponsor’s ownership of the asset, and the basis for valuation. Please discuss these separate documentary requirements with the attorney based on the sponsor’s asset portfolio as early in the process as possible.
While copies of supporting documents are acceptable when filing the I-864 Affidavit of Support, originals are often requested to be made available for verification at the time of the adjustment interview.