Before a diversity visa lottery winner can be approved for a green card (U.S. lawful permanent residence), the applicant must prove that he or she is not inadmissible. One of the grounds of inadmissibility is that the person is likely to become a public charge (depend primarily on government assistance based on financial need). (See I.N.A. Section 212(a)(4).)
To overcome this ground of inadmissibility, diversity visa lottery winners will need to provide documentary evidence that they have an available means of support.
For a general overview of the process, see Green Card Application Process After Winning The DV Lottery.
The immigrant should attempt to show some combination of ownership of property and assets, a job offer in the U.S., or that the immigrant is already living legally in the United States with a job that pays a sufficient income, in order to overcome the public charge ground of inadmissibility.
For example, one might submit any of the following:
If the immigrant's sources of financial support are not sufficient on their own, one possibility is to find a U.S. sponsor to fill out an Affidavit of Support on Form I-134, issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Download Form I-134 and instructions from the USCIS website.
(Note: Although Form I-134 is usually reserved for use with temporary visas, and the Form I-864 is usually used with applications for green cards, the DV lottery visa application process uses Form I-134.)
Form I-134 must be filled out by someone who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. The person need not be a family member, but should have a close enough relationship with the immigrant that U.S. immigration authorities are convinced that the sponsor will make sure that the immigrant will not need to apply for public assistance or welfare for up to three years after becoming a permanent resident.
Whoever fills out Form I-134 will need to attach documents to show that the information contained in the form is true.
These should include, where applicable: a copy of the sponsor's most recent federal income taxes (with W-2s) showing income; a statement from the bank, with details about accounts including the date opened, the total amount deposited for the past year, and present balance; and a letter from the employer, verifying current employment, job title, salary, and whether the position is permanent.
Also attach a copy of the document that shows the immigration status of the person signing the Form I-134.
See I-134 Affidavit of Support: Instructions & Tips for Sponsors for more on completing this form.
How much is enough?
For starters, the immigrant or sponsor’s income, or assets (which must be convertible to cash within one year) must be enough to support the immigrant (as well as the sponsor’s own household) at the level of 125% of the current Poverty Guidelines or above. For the current guidelines, go to the USCIS page for "Form I-864P."
If family members are immigrating through the DV winner as derivatives, they must also be listed on the Form I-134. And, the income and assets listed on Form I-134 must be enough to cover them, too.
That might not be enough, though. The regulations concerning public charge require the government to consider the totality of an immigrant applicant's circumstances, taking into account things like age, education, job skills, health insurance, assets, and past receipt of public benefits in the United States. Some of these factors (such as past receipt of public benefits) are given more weight than others.
To aid the government in making this assessment, the immigrants will have to fill out a separate form concerning their financial situation (Form I-944 if adjusting status in the U.S., or Form DS-5540 if going through consular processing). Applicants must also include various documents along with this form.
When you ask a family member or friend to sign an Affidavit of Support on your behalf, that person will want to know the legal extent of the financial obligations that come with it. A full explanation is provided in USCIS's online Instructions to Form I-134.
The signer does not promise to support the immigrant. What he or she does agree to do is to reimburse the U.S. government if the immigrant obtains certain financial benefits by fraud, that is, by misrepresenting income, immigration status, or the income of the Form I-134 signer. The Affidavit of Support promise lasts for three years. After that, the responsibility of the signer of the Affidavit of Support comes to an end.