I-864 Forms

In a previous post, we explained that you, as a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident helping a relative obtain an immigrant visa or Green Card must fill out and sign an Affidavit of Support. More often than not, the official government document used to show that you can and will provide financial assistance for the immigrant if necessary is Form I-864.

But that’s not always so. Depending on the circumstances, you may have to complete an Affidavit of Support on  Form I-134, I-864EZ, I-864A, I 864W or  I-864P.

In this post, we will explain the differences between these forms, and when to use them.

Let’s begin by discussing the difference between a Form I-864 and a Form I-134. To put it in the simplest possible terms, Form I-864 should be used if you are sponsoring a relative’s Green Card application, and Form I-134 if you sponsoring their U.S. visa application. Some other basic differences are that  Form I-134 is shorter, and is not legally binding.

But of course, it’s not quite that simple. The Form I-134 can only be used for certain non-immigrant visa applications. These include the so-called “K” visa applications for  fiancés or fiancees of U.S. citizens; their children; and spouses of U.S. citizens who plan on adjusting their immigrant status after coming here.

This is also the case if you have a Green Card and you are sponsoring a visa application for:

  • Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and over).

You must also complete a Form I-864 for an employment-based immigrant visa application if you own at least 5 percent of the business that filed the petition.

Here’s where things can become even more confusing. The Form I-864 must also be completed and filed with certain immigrant visa applications. This is the case when you are a U.S. citizen sponsoring a visa application for:

  • Your husband or wife.
  • Your unmarried child who is less than 21 years of age.
  • An orphan that you adopted overseas.
  • An orphan to be adopted in the United States.
  • Your parent(s), as long as you are at least 21 years of age.
  • Your unmarried sons and daughters and their minor children.
  • Your married sons and daughters and their spouses and minor children, provided you are at least 21 years of age.
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So what about all of those other forms?

The good news is that in some cases, you may be able to fill out a much shorter Affidavit of Support, called the Form I-864 EZ. You can use this form if:

  • You also filed or are filing the Form I-130 for the family member you’re sponsoring.
  • The family member you are sponsoring is the only one listed on the I-130.
  • Your qualifying income is based solely on your salary or pension and can be verified by the information on your W-2(s).

However, you may not use this form if:

  • You are sponsoring more than one family member.
  • You are not a sole, primary sponsor.
  • You filed or are filing a Form I-40 on behalf of the person you are sponsoring.
  • Your qualifying income is business-based.

Whether you end up filling out the “short” form or the long version, you will almost certainly need to use a Form I-864P, as well. According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), this document is used to calculate the base income needed to qualify as a sponsor on Form I-864. This amount is calculated based on several factors including the number of people in your household, whether you are in the military, where you live and the HHS Poverty guidelines.

Because the Form I-864 is a tool, there is no need to file it, and there are no associated filing fees.

But what happens if you use the Form I-864P and find out that you don’t meet the minimum income requirements? One option is to use another household member’s income and/or other assets to supplement your own. If you pursue this option, you and the household member must fill out and sign a Form I-864A.

Essentially, this form is a legally binding agreement in which the household member other than the sponsored immigrant agrees to help support the sponsored immigrant. However, you, as the sponsor are still responsible for reimbursing  a government agency or agencies for financial assistance/benefits provided to the sponsored immigrant if need be.

Form I-864A must be filled out and signed by you, as the sponsor, joint sponsor or substitute sponsor and the other contributing household member.

Additional tips for the successful completion of Form I-864A can be found here.

Last but not least, there are a few circumstances in which there is no need to file a Form I-864 at all. These are cases in which the immigrant has:

  • Acquired the required number of work credits.
  • Qualifies for exemption under the Child Citizenship Act.
  • Is a qualified widow or widower who is “self-petitioning.”
  • Is “self-petitioning” and qualifies for exemption under the Violence Against Women Act.

Even if you are an immigrant who falls into one of these categories, USCIS won’t accept your claim of exemption without any explanation or proof. Instead, your sponsor must provide the reason(s) for and evidence of your exemption in writing, on yet another form called the Form I-864W. Once your sponsor has filled everything out, you will have to sign it as well.

Fortunately, completing this paperwork is fairly easy. As the sponsor, you need to provide personal information about the relative you’re sponsoring, including their alien registration number or social security number (if applicable);  the reason for Form I-864 exemption, and proof of the same. It is extremely important to get the immigrant’s signature and supporting documents before filing the Form-I-864W.

As you can see, there are several Affidavits of Support that can be filed when you are helping a relative get their Green Card or visa. While we have provided a general explanation of each of those forms here, it is important to consult with one of our experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorneys if you have any questions or concerns. By doing so, you will greatly reduce the likelihood that your Affidavit of Support will be denied.

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