An Affidavit of Support is a legally binding document in the context of U.S. immigration law that is used to demonstrate that an intending immigrant has adequate financial support and will not become a public charge while in the United States. The Affidavit of Support is typically required when a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) sponsors a family member for immigration, such as a spouse, child, parent, or sibling.
Here are the key points about the Affidavit of Support:
- Sponsorship Requirement: The U.S. sponsor, who must be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or green card holder, is legally obligated to provide financial support to the intending immigrant.
- Form I-864: The most commonly used form for the Affidavit of Support is Form I-864, officially known as the “Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act.” This form requires the sponsor to provide detailed information about their income, assets, and household size to prove their ability to support the immigrant.
- Income Requirements: The U.S. sponsor must demonstrate that their income is at least 125% of the federal poverty guidelines for their household size. In some cases, such as sponsoring a spouse or child, the requirement may be higher (usually 125% of 125% or 100% of the poverty guidelines).
- Joint Sponsors: In cases where the primary sponsor’s income or assets do not meet the requirements, a joint sponsor can provide additional financial support. The joint sponsor also needs to submit a separate Form I-864.
- Duration of Obligation: The sponsor’s obligation under the Affidavit of Support typically continues until the sponsored immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen, can be credited with 40 quarters of work, leaves the U.S., or dies.
- Legal Responsibility: Signing an Affidavit of Support is a legally binding contract, and the sponsor can be held financially responsible for the sponsored immigrant if they receive certain means-tested public benefits.
- Exceptions: Not all immigrants require an Affidavit of Support. For example, refugees, asylees, and certain self-petitioning victims of abuse are exempt from this requirement.
Affidavit of Support Checklist
When preparing an Affidavit of Support for U.S. immigration purposes, it’s important to follow a checklist to ensure that all the required documents and information are included. Here’s Form I-864 checklist of required documents:
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support: Complete the form accurately and legibly. Ensure that it is signed and dated by the sponsor.
- Proof of U.S. Citizenship or Permanent Residency: Provide a copy of the sponsor’s U.S. passport, Certificate of Naturalization, Certificate of Citizenship, or green card (Form I-551).
- Proof of Relationship: Include evidence of the relationship between the sponsor and the sponsored immigrant. This may include birth certificates, marriage certificates, or adoption documents.
- Financial Documentation: Attach supporting financial documents to prove the sponsor’s income and ability to support the immigrant. This typically includes:
- Copies of the sponsor’s federal income tax returns for the most recent tax year (and the previous three years if required).
- W-2 forms and/or 1099 forms for the most recent tax year.
- Recent pay stubs or an employment letter indicating current income.
- Proof of any other sources of income (e.g., rental income, dividends, interest).
- Evidence of assets, such as bank statements, property deeds, and stocks and bonds.
- Form I-864A (if applicable): If household members are contributing to the household income, they should complete Form I-864A, Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member.
- Proof of U.S. Domicile: The sponsor should demonstrate that they maintain a U.S. domicile. This can include a lease or mortgage agreement, utility bills, and other documents showing their residence in the United States.
- Copy of Immigrant Visa Petition (Form I-130, I-140, or I-360): Include a copy of the approved immigrant visa petition filed on behalf of the sponsored immigrant.
- Supporting Documentation for Other Income Sources (if applicable): If the sponsor’s income includes sources other than employment, provide evidence for those sources, such as rental income documentation, investment income statements, or retirement account statements.
- Joint Sponsors (if applicable): If the sponsor’s income is insufficient, provide a separate Form I-864 and supporting financial documents for the joint sponsor.
- Translation of Documents (if applicable): If any documents are not in English, include certified translations.
- Filing Fee: Check the USCIS website for the current filing fee associated with Form I-864 and include a check or money order for this amount, payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
- Photocopies: Make photocopies of all documents for your records.
- Checklist and Cover Letter: Create a checklist of all documents included in the submission and consider including a cover letter summarizing the contents of the package.
- Mailing and Submission: Ensure that the submission package is correctly addressed and mailed to the appropriate USCIS office or U.S. consulate, as specified in the immigration instructions or the specific immigration case requirements.