If you are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident who plans to sponsor a family member to immigrate to the United States, you probably know that you'll need to fill out various application forms. One of the most important you will likely to file with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the I-864 Affidavit of Support.
Its purpose is to help assure the U.S. government that your immigrating relative will not become a public charge, dependent on government aid, because you will either support your relative or reimburse any government agency from which your relative claims need-based assistance. Sponsors must show that their income and/or assets equal at least 125% of the Poverty Guidelines. (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.)
Unfortunately for hesitant sponsors, you will likely need to file out Form I-864 if you have filed (or intend to file) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services either of the following petitions to sponsor an immigrant for U.S. residence:
It's a basic requirement for the person to immigrate, unless you qualify for one of the exemptions described under the discussion of Form I-864W below. Also, you must fill out this affidavit even if your income is not sufficient to sponsor the immigrant.
There are actually four versions of form I-864 associated with the immigration 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:
Most sponsors must fill out the basic Form I-864. We'll discuss what the other versions are used for below.
If the U.S. sponsor doesn't earn enough to cover the immigrants, one option to help make the immigrant's green card application successful is to look for a joint sponsor, living in the United States. For purposes of determining whether that person's income is sufficient, you'll need to take into account both the number of people in the joint sponsor's household and the number of incoming immigrants.
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).
Another possible other source of income is from relatives or dependents living in the sponsor's household or listed on their most recent federal tax return. Such a person would need to sign Form I-864A, described below.
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, in a low-income situation, people in the sponsor's 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 the main sponsor 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:
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). They can take into account such factors as the person's age, ability to work, and access to medical insurance.
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. If you would like assistance, find a local immigration attorney.