Form I-864: details

By now, you are well aware that helping a relative get their Green Card or visa is a big responsibility that requires lots of time, lots of patience, and lots of paperwork. In the past two articles we discussed one of the most important documents in this whole process —   the Affidavit of Support, or Form I-864 — in great detail. But believe it or not, there are a few more things you need to know about it before you start filling it out.

One issue we haven’t yet addressed is which tax records you need to supply as supporting documents. So let’s start by talking about that. Basically, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) gives you a couple of options. You can document your income by submitting your federal income tax information from the past one, two or three years. Which option you choose will depend on your financial situation, but if you’re not sure what to do, be sure to check with your accountant.

You can also choose how to provide these records. You can provide copies of the actual returns, or you can supply transcripts obtained through the IRS website. USCIS prefers the latter because it includes detailed information, and because the documents soured this way are less likely to be counterfeits.

As you may recall, the amount of income needed in order to qualify as a sponsor depends on several factors. One is where you live and another is household size. So how is household size calculated? The answer is surprisingly simple. All you have to do is count the number of people that you provide for, whether they actually live with you or not. This includes:

  • Yourself
  • Your spouse (if applicable)
  • Your children (as long as they are less than 21 years of age and still classified as dependents)
  • Dependent children from a previous marriage (if applicable)
  • Anyone else you listed as a dependent on your most current income tax return
  • All of the immigrants you are currently sponsoring
  • Any immigrants that you sponsored in the past that you must still support

You can also include any other relatives that live with you. This is especially important if you don’t make enough to qualify as a sponsor and you want to use their income to supplement your own. Participating household members must agree to do this by signing Form I-864A.

  • If you don’t meet the minimum income requirements to qualify as a sponsor, you can also get one or two joint sponsors. The benefits of this are that you don’t have to be related to the joint sponsor(s), and they assume financial responsibility for some or all of  the family members coming to the United States with the primary immigrant. To do so, however, your joint sponsor(s) must also complete a Form I-864 for each person they are willing to support.

    Your joint sponsor must be at least 18, have a Green Card or be a U.S. citizen. He or she must also meet the required income threshold based on his or her own household size and federal poverty guidelines without including the income from any other sponsors.

Like you (the petitioning sponsor), your joint-sponsor(s) must also prove be domiciled in the United States. But what does that really mean, and what type of proof is acceptable? Basically, your country of domicile is the country where you live. It is not the country where you have a vacation house, or travel to for any other reason. Proof that the United States is your country of domicile includes:

  • U.S. voting records
  • Evidence of your permanent U.S. mailing address
  • Federal, state and/or local tax records
  • Banking records
  • Land/property records demonstrating ownership

Although relocating within the United States and/or U.S. territories isn’t considered an interruption of domicile, living overseas for extended periods can make it more difficult to claim this is where you have a permanent residence.

Last but not least, don’t forget to write a cover letter that identifies you as the petitioning (or joint) sponsor, and identifies the immigrant(s) you are sponsoring. It should also list all of the supporting documents that you are providing along with the Form I-864, Affidavit for Support.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your role as a petitioning or joint sponsor, or you are concerned about completing the Affidavit of Support, don’t hesitate to contact us. With a simple phone call, we can help put your mind at ease, and  help you avoid costly mistakes.

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