For many applicants seeking entry to the United States, the government will require proof that the alien will have adequate financial resources to support themselves while in America.

This is the case for certain non-immigrant visas, particularly those where the applicant is not permitted to work while in the U.S. Form I-134 Affidavit of Support is often used in this situation. People seeking to immigrate to the U.S. must demonstrate that they will not become a “public charge” after entering the U.S.

A provision of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 created a new Affidavit of Support, Form I-864, which is much more extensive than the I-134, and creates a legal obligation on behalf of the person who signs it. This legal obligation means that the sponsored immigrants, the federal government or any state government can sue the sponsor if the sponsor fails to support the immigrant. The Affidavit is enforceable either until the immigrant naturalizes or has worked for ten years.

Affidavits of Support are required in all family based immigration cases, and in employment based cases where the alien is related to the owner of the petitioning company.

The key to the Affidavit of Support is the annual poverty level, determined by the Department of Health and Human Services. Sponsors must earn at least 125% of the poverty level, except for sponsors who are on military active duty, who must be able to show income equal only to the poverty level. The poverty level varies with the number of members of a household. The sponsor’s income must be above the poverty level for the size of the household plus all sponsored immigrants.

In the event the primary sponsor does not earn enough, they can get a co-sponsor. This is done on Form I-864A. The co-sponsor must be a family member, by birth, marriage, or adoption. The co-sponsor becomes legally obligated to provide the same support as the primary sponsor, and the obligation does not end until the immigrant’s naturalization, or until the immigrant has worked for ten years.

In meeting the poverty guideline, sponsors can rely on all sources of income. In the event that income is not sufficient to meet the income level required, the sponsor can rely on assets. It must be possible to use the assets for the support of the immigrant, and the assets must be convertible into cash within one year.

In addition to all of the other obligations, sponsors and co-sponsors must keep the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) informed of all changes of addresses. Fines can be imposed for failing to do so.

See also…

Immigration Law