If you are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident and are sponsoring a family member to immigrate to the United States, you will likely need to file one or more of the I-864 Affidavit of Support forms with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The purpose is to help assure that your immigrating relative will not become a public charge, because you will either support him or her, or reimburse any government agency from which your relative claims need-based assistance.
There are four forms associated with the process, some more detailed than others. You'll have to fill out at least one of these, and if your income is on the low side, possibly two:
You will likely need to file an I-864, the longest version of this form, if you have filed (or intend to file) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services any of the following petitions to sponsor an immigrant for U.S. residence:
Unless you qualify for one of the exemptions described under the discussion of Form I-864W below, you must submit Form I-864 even if your income is NOT sufficient to sponsor the immigrant.
In that situation, however, one of your options to help make sure the immigrant's green card application is successful is to look for a joint sponsor, living in the U.S., whose income and/or assets equal at least 125% of the Poverty Guidelines, taking into account both the number of people in the joint sponsor's household and the number of incoming immigrants. (There's an exception for sponsors on active duty in the U.S. armed forces and petitioning for a spouse or child: they need to reach only 100% of the Poverty Guidelines.)
The joint sponsor would also sign a Form I-864, thereby promising to provide any and all financial support necessary to assist you in supporting the immigrant(s).
Be aware, however, that regardless of whether you're able to put together sufficient total income, the U.S. government has the power to look past this and decide that the immigrant is inadmissible as a likely public charge (reliant upon government assistance) regardless.
A few petitioners can use an easier form of the I-864 Affidavit of Support, called the I-864EZ. To be eligible, you must:
Note that this means that joint sponsors cannot use the EZ form. Nor can petitioners who filed Form I-140; "substitute sponsors" filing on behalf of a deceased petitioner; or petitioners sponsoring more than one immigrant on the same I-130.
If your income is not at least 125% of the U.S. Poverty Guidelines for your family size, you will not be able to sponsor an immigrant unless you can meet the income requirement in some other way.
One possible other source of income is that from relatives or dependents living in your household or listed on your most recent federal tax return.
If these people in your household are willing to help sponsor the immigrant, they must sign Form I-864A: Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member. In doing so, they promise to provide any and all financial support necessary to assist you in supporting the immigrant.
The following people do not need to file a Form I-864 when they petition for an immigrant or in connection with their own application for U.S. permanent residence. They must instead file Form I-864W, showing their exemption from the I-864 requirement:
Proving financial capacity is a common difficulty for new immigrants and their families. If you intend to take on the task, we recommend that you do not rely upon information solicited directly from a USCIS office. You are not likely to be given all of the details you might need and you could actually receive incorrect information, for which the USCIS will not take responsibility. If you would like assistance, find a local immigration attorney.