When your spouse sponsors your marriage green card application, they have a responsibility to make sure you have enough financial resources at your disposal when you become an immigrant. To this point, they will need to submit an Affidavit of Support with your green card application to prove that you will be financially comfortable as a U.S. permanent resident. There are certain minimum income requirements for anyone who is your green card financial sponsor. This article explains the minimum income requirements for a green card sponsor, how to calculate your household size, and which sources of income you can include.
What are the minimum income requirements for a green card sponsor?
The minimum income requirements on green card financial sponsorship depend on whether or not you (the petitioner or “sponsor”) are a civilian spouse or a military spouse. Military spouses are those on active duty in the U.S. armed forces petitioning for their spouse’s green card. All other spouses are civilian spouses.
For civilian spouses - 125% of Federal Poverty Guidelines
Civilian spouses’ eligibility to qualify as sponsors for their spouse’s green card application depends on whether they have an income of at least 125 percent of the federal poverty level guidelines.
Note that couples who both live outside the United States will follow the minimum annual income requirements for the 48 contiguous states, D.C., and any U.S. territories.
Federal poverty guidelines depend on your household size and location. The minimum income requirements for sponsors living in Alaska or Hawaii differ from the requirements for sponsors living elsewhere in the United States. The following table summarizes the minimum income requirements for civilian spouse sponsors. For example, a civilian spouse with a household size of 5 would have a minimum income requirement of $48,512 if they live in Alaska or $44,625 if they live in Hawaii. If they live anywhere else in the United States, their minimum income requirement would be $38,800.
Minimum Income Requirements for Civilian Spouse Sponsors
For military spouses - 100% of Federal Poverty Guidelines
Military spouses’ eligibility to qualify as sponsors for their spouse’s green card application depends on whether they have an income of at least 100 percent of the federal poverty level guidelines.
Note that couples who both live outside of the United States will follow the minimum annual income requirements for the 48 contiguous states, D.C., and any U.S. territories.
Federal poverty guidelines depend on your household size and location. The minimum income requirements for sponsors living in Alaska or Hawaii differ from the requirements for sponsors living elsewhere in the United States. The following table summarizes the minimum income requirements for military spouse sponsors. For example, a military spouse with a household size of 2 would have a minimum income requirement of $21,770 if they live in Alaska or $20,040 if they live in Hawaii. If they live anywhere else in the United States, their minimum income requirement would be $17,420.
Minimum Income Requirements for Military Spouse Sponsors
How to calculate your household size for minimum income requirements
To calculate your household size for minimum income level requirements, be sure to count the following:
- Yourself (the sponsoring spouse)
- Your spouse (the sponsored immigrant)
- Any of your unmarried children who are minors
- Any of your dependents as listed on your tax returns
- Anyone else applying for a green card and coming to the United States with your spouse
- Anyone else you will be sponsoring on a different Affidavit of Support
What sources of income count?
In most cases, the sponsor’s income you may include will be the same as the amount you reported on your most recent U.S. federal income tax return. You can find this figure on line nine of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 1040. Your total income includes your wages, salaries, retirement benefits, alimony, child support, dividends or earned interest, and any legally obtained income from other sources.
If your income is not enough to satisfy the minimum income requirement for sponsorship, you may include your other adult household members’ income. But, you will only be able to include this additional income if they commit to making this income available to help provide financial support to your green card applicant relative. If you want to have other household members’ income counted, they will need to complete Form I-864A or the “Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member.”
There is another option if you still fail to meet the minimum income requirement even with other sponsor’s household members’ added income. You may obtain a co-sponsor or “joint sponsor,” someone who does not live in your household but who will accept full financial responsibility for your green card applicant relative. A co-sponsor will need to complete their own Form I-864 or “Affidavit of Support.” They will also need to meet the minimum income requirement on their own. A co-sponsor does not need to be a family member, but they need to be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who lives in the United States.
You may also include income from the green card applicant themself, but only if they will continue to receive their income from the same source after receiving their green card.
If you currently don’t live in the United States, your foreign income will not count toward your minimum income requirement. But, if you prove that you will stay in your current job once you enter the United States or get a new position in the United States that meets the financial requirements, you may count your foreign income. For example, if you are transferring from your company’s foreign office to their U.S.-based office, you would qualify. If you were initially working remotely, you would also be eligible to count foreign income.
If you find that your total household income does not yet satisfy the minimum income requirement, you may count your assets to make up the difference. In addition to your assets, you may count other household members’ assets if both of the following are true:
- You are related to them by birth, marriage, or adoption.
- You have either lived with them for the past six months or have listed them as dependents on your most recent tax return.
To check how much of your assets you’ll have to include on your Affidavit of Support to substitute for your income, be sure to do the following:
- Using the above tables, locate your minimum income requirement depending on your household size and civilian versus military status.
- Find the difference between your minimum income requirement and your actual combined household income.
- If you (the sponsor) are a U.S. citizen, multiply this difference by three. If you (the sponsor) are a green card holder, multiply this difference by five. The result of this calculation will give you the total asset value you’ll need to satisfy the minimum income requirement.
Once you’ve found your needed asset value, you can begin figuring out which assets to count to meet the requirement. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), is the government agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that will process your application. USCIS only allows you to count assets that could be converted into cash within just one year, without any considerable financial loss to the asset owner. Your included assets may be savings accounts, stocks and bonds, mutual fund investments, and certificates of deposit (CDs). You are also able to use your home’s net value as an asset. Your home’s net value includes any mortgages or unpaid fees on the home subtracted from the home’s appraised value. You will also be able to include the net value of a car. However, you will only be able to do so if you own another vehicle you haven’t yet counted as an asset. The net value of your car will be the market value of your car minus any outstanding auto loans on your vehicle.
You may also count assets belonging to your green card applicant spouse (or the intending immigrant). You may count their assets regardless of where they live and even if they hold non-U.S. or foreign assets. To apply foreign holdings to the minimum income requirement, the green card applicant must meet the following guidelines:
- They have liquid assets, which they may convert into cash within one year.
- They can move their assets from their current country of residence to the United States.
- The total value of their assets must be at least five times the difference between your (the sponsor’s) income and your minimum income requirement.
Obtaining a green card can be complicated, but working with a good immigration attorney can make it easier. If you can't afford the attorney fees and don't want to handle your green card case alone, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!