Navigating the Affidavit of Support: Your Complete Guide to Form I-864

What is an Affidavit of Support?

An Affidavit of Support is a legal document that demonstrates the financial responsibility of a sponsor for an immigrant applying for a U.S. visa or seeking to adjust their status to become a lawful permanent resident (green card holder). The primary purpose of the Affidavit of Support is to ensure that the sponsored immigrant will not become a public burden and that they will have adequate financial support from the sponsor while in the United States.

The Affidavit of Support is typically required for family-sponsored immigrants and certain employment-based immigrants. The form used for this purpose is Form I-864, officially titled “Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act.” This form is submitted by the sponsor to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as part of the immigration application process.

Key points about the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) include:

  • Sponsorship Obligation: The sponsor who signs the Affidavit of Support agrees to financially support the sponsored immigrant at a level that is at least 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. The sponsor’s financial responsibility remains in effect until the sponsored immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen, earns 40 qualifying quarters of work, or departs the U.S. permanently.
  • Sponsor Eligibility: The sponsor must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who is at least 18 years old and has a domicile in the United States.
  • Financial Requirements: The sponsor’s income and assets are assessed to ensure that they meet the minimum income requirement to support the sponsored immigrant. If the sponsor’s income is insufficient, they can use the value of their assets to meet the requirement.
  • Joint Sponsors and Household Members: In some cases, if the sponsor’s income is not sufficient, a joint sponsor (another individual who meets the eligibility criteria) can submit a separate Affidavit of Support. Certain household members may also be included to combine their incomes with the sponsor’s.
  • Effect on Public Benefits: By signing the Affidavit of Support, the sponsor agrees to reimburse the U.S. government for any means-tested public benefits that the sponsored immigrant receives.
  • Form I-864 Obligations: The sponsor’s obligations outlined in Form I-864 are legally binding and enforceable. If the sponsored immigrant receives public benefits, the government can seek reimbursement from the sponsor.

It’s important for both sponsors and sponsored immigrants to understand the obligations and implications of the Affidavit of Support. If you’re sponsoring a family member or are a sponsored immigrant, it’s advisable to consult the official USCIS resources and potentially seek legal advice to ensure compliance with the requirements.

Who is required to submit Form I-864?

Form I-864, the Affidavit of Support, is typically required to be submitted by sponsors who are financially supporting certain family-sponsored immigrants and employment-based immigrants seeking to become lawful permanent residents (green card holders) in the United States. The purpose of the form is to ensure that the sponsored immigrant will have adequate financial support and will not become a public burden.

Here are the main categories of immigrants for whom the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) is generally required:

  • Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens:
  • Spouses of U.S. citizens
  • Unmarried children (under 21) of U.S. citizens
  • Parents of U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years old
  • Family-Sponsored Preference Categories:
  • Certain family members sponsored by U.S. citizens or permanent residents, including:
  • Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years or older) of U.S. citizens
  • Spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents
  • Employment-Based Immigrants:
  • Some employment-based immigrants, including:
  • Certain employment-based preference categories (e.g., EB-3)
  • Diversity Visa (DV) lottery winners

It’s important to note that not all immigrants are required to submit Form I-864. For example, refugees, asylees, and certain other categories have different financial support requirements, and the Affidavit of Support may not apply to them.

Additionally, there are specific rules regarding who can be a sponsor, what their financial responsibilities are, and how they can meet the income requirements. In cases where the sponsor’s income is insufficient, a joint sponsor or certain household members may also be required to submit separate Affidavits of Support.

If you are sponsoring a family member or are an immigrant seeking to adjust status, it’s recommended to review the official USCIS guidelines and consult with an immigration attorney to ensure that you understand the requirements and obligations related to Form I-864.

Form I-485 checklist of required documents

The specific documents required for Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, can vary based on your individual circumstances and eligibility category. However, here’s a general checklist of common documents that you might need to include with your Form I-485 application:

  • Form I-485:
  • A completed and signed Form I-485 for each applicant (including any eligible family members applying together).
  • Filing Fee:
  • Payment of the required filing fee (or fee waiver request, if applicable).
  • Passport-Style Photos:
  • Two passport-style photos for each applicant. Follow the photo specifications provided by USCIS.
  • Copy of Form I-94:
  • Copy of the arrival/departure record (Form I-94) for each applicant.
  • Copy of Visa:
  • Copy of the visa page from the passport for each applicant.
  • Copy of Passport:
  • Copy of the biographical page of the passport for each applicant.
  • Birth Certificate:
  • Copy of the birth certificate for each applicant.
  • Marriage Certificate (if applicable):
  • Copy of the marriage certificate if applying as a spouse.
  • Divorce or Annulment Documents (if applicable):
  • Copies of divorce decrees, annulment documents, or death certificates for previous marriages (if applicable).
  • Medical Examination Results:
  • Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, sealed in an envelope by the civil surgeon, if required. This medical examination must be conducted by a designated civil surgeon.
  • Affidavit of Support (Form I-864):
  • If applicable, a completed and signed Form I-864 Affidavit of Support, along with required supporting documents from the sponsor.
  • Employment Authorization Document (Form I-765):
  • Form I-765 and supporting documents if you’re concurrently applying for work authorization.
  • Advance Parole (Form I-131):
  • Form I-131 and supporting documents if you’re concurrently applying for a travel document (advance parole).
  • Evidence of Legal Name Change (if applicable):
  • Documents showing legal name changes (e.g., marriage certificate, court order).
  • Police Clearance Certificates (if applicable):
  • Police clearance certificates from any country where you have lived for more than 6 months after turning 16.
  • Proof of Eligibility Category:
  • Documents that establish your eligibility category (e.g., family relationship, employment).
  • Other Supporting Documents:
  • Any additional documents required for your specific eligibility category or circumstances.

Remember that this is a general checklist, and the specific documents you need may vary based on your situation. It’s important to carefully review the official USCIS instructions for Form I-485 and your eligibility category to ensure that you provide all the required documentation. If you’re unsure about any requirements, consider seeking legal advice or assistance.

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