When you're applying for a marriage green card, you'll need a financial sponsor to submit an Affidavit of Support on your behalf. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will process your Affidavit of Support to determine that you have enough financial resources available to you as a U.S. immigrant. This article explains everything you should know about filing an Affidavit of Support using Form I-864. You'll learn the requirements and obligations of a financial sponsor and who is exempt from filing an Affidavit of Support.
What is an Affidavit of Support?
An "Affidavit of Support" is a document that a friend or family member who agrees to accept financial responsibility for you submits with your green card visa application. Your financial sponsor is usually the same person sponsoring your marriage green card. To file an Affidavit of Support, your spouse must submit Form I-864 to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agency, on your behalf. They will have to provide identifying information, such as their social security number and additional information, including financial status. If applicable, they will indicate if they have active duty status in the U.S. armed forces. Every green card applicant must file Form I-864 as part of their application.
There are different variations of Form I-864 you may have to submit with your application. You will need to file at least one and possibly two if your sponsoring spouse does not meet income requirements.
Full-Length Form I-864
Unless you qualify for an exemption (explained below), you must submit Form I-864 with your application, even if your spouse’s income is insufficient. If your spouse’s income is not enough, you can consider getting a joint sponsor to meet the financial requirements.
Additionally, unless your spouse already filed or intended to file the following petitions, they must submit the full-length Form I-864:
- Form I-130, “Petition for Alien Relative,” which is for immediate relatives including spouses, unmarried children, siblings, or parents
- Form I-140, “Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker” if the sponsoring relative has a 5% or more interest in a business that filed for your employment-based immigrant visa petition
If your sponsor already filed Form I-130 or Form I-140 for you, then they could file Form I-864EZ instead of Form I-864.
Your spouse can use Form I-864EZ, a shorter version of the Form I-864, if they meet any of these requirements:
- They already filed a Form I-130 petition on your behalf.
- They only listed one immigrant on the Form I-130 petition they filed, and you are their only sponsored immigrant.
- Their salary and pension only are enough to provide you with financial support. They can use W-2 forms provided by their employer to show this income.
Joint sponsors cannot use this form. Anyone who filed Form I-140 as a substitute sponsor for a deceased petitioner does not qualify. In addition, if your spouse is sponsoring more than one immigration application, such as you and your dependents, they cannot use this form.
To sponsor your green card application, your spouse should have an annual income of at least 125% of the U.S. federal poverty guidelines for their location and household size. Otherwise, they cannot sponsor you, and they need to find another way to meet the household income requirement.
Your spouse can use household members or anyone listed on their most recent federal income tax return as another source of income. If other household members are willing to help you, they need to sign Form I-864A, "Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member." By signing Form I-864A, they promise to provide you with any financial support your spouse cannot cover. To qualify as a household member, the person must be over age 18, related to your spouse, and residing in their household. If they live elsewhere, your spouse must have claimed them as a dependent on their most recent federal income tax return. Your spouse must submit both Form I-864 and Form I-864A, if they’re getting help from a household member.
You don’t need to file Form I-864 with your application if you qualify for an exemption. Instead, you should file Form I-864W if you meet any of these eligibility requirements:
- You have proof of 40 quarters of work, or about 10 years, in the United States. In some cases, according to the Social Security Act, you can get credit for work performed by your spouse during the marriage or by your parents while you were younger than 18. The Social Security Administration allows you to provide evidence and count your quarters of work on their website.
- Upon entering the United States, you will acquire U.S. citizenship under Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), amended by the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
- You are a self-petitioning widow/er or self-petitioning battered spouse or child, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved your Form I-360, “Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant.”
Who can file an Affidavit of Support?
Your spouse can submit an Affidavit of Support form if they qualify and promise financial support to you, the intending immigrant. They must be a U.S. citizen or possess lawful permanent resident status with a domicile in the United States. A domicile is a location someone considers their permanent home. They also need to prove they have adequate means of financial support with supporting documents as evidence.
These are the income requirements for your spouse to qualify as a financial sponsor:
If your spouse cannot meet the requirements, you can also use your income to meet the financial requirements. However, your income only counts if you’ll continue to receive it after obtaining your green card.
What are the financial obligations of a financial sponsor?
By filing the completed Form I-864, your spouse agrees to a contract with the U.S. government to financially support you and prevent you from becoming a public charge or dependent on public benefits. Government agencies can force your spouse to repay any public benefits you use after obtaining your green card, such as Supplemental Insurance Income (SSI). This rule does not apply to all benefits, so check the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services guidelines.
Your spouse’s responsibilities expire when any of these circumstances happen:
- You or your spouse die
- You become a U.S. citizen through naturalization
- You work for 40 quarters in the United States
- You permanently move out of the United States
Your spouse's responsibilities do not expire if they move. They are obligated to file Form I-865, Sponsor's Change of Address, within 30 days of an address change or risk a fine from the government.
If your spouse has been a financial sponsor for anyone in the past and the obligation has not expired, those dependents will count when your spouse files a new Affidavit of Support.
When should you file an Affidavit of Support?
If you are already in the United States, you should file Form I-864 together with your Form I-485 adjustment of status application. If you’re outside the United States, you should file Form I-864 when you schedule your immigrant visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consular office.
If your spouse petitioned you to enter through a K-3 visa or through a K-1 visa, you should file once you adjust your status to permanent resident after arriving in the United States.
Filing an Affidavit of Support 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!