What is an Affidavit of Support (I-864) in Immigration?
Immigrants who don’t make enough money to live on their own aren’t eligible for green cards unless they have a signed Affidavit of Support from someone who is financially capable of supporting them. This guide explains.
What is an Affidavit of Support?
An Affidavit of Support is U.S. Immigration Form I-864. This form says that the sponsor (or someone else) is willing and able to accept financial responsibility for the family member that’s applying for a U.S. green card.
If the green card applicant is later unable to support themselves, the person who signed the Affidavit of Support becomes responsible – and that may include repaying any public benefits the sponsored green card holder has used.
What Income Qualifies for a Green Card, and What Income Requires an Affidavit of Support?
The U.S. government uses the Department of Health and Human Services’ poverty guidelines to determine whether a person has enough income of their own or they need an Affidavit of Support from the sponsor or someone else.
If your household income is equal to or higher than 125 percent of the U.S. poverty level for your household size, you don’t need a sponsor. However, if your income is less than 125 percent of the U.S. poverty level, you do need a sponsor.
The poverty level guidelines can change, depending on economic conditions in the United States, which means even if you qualified for a green card based on your own income at one point, you may not qualify now.
It’s important that you check the most current poverty guidelines (you can find them here) if you’re unsure whether your income is sufficient. Remember, too, that the poverty guidelines can vary based on where you intend to live. They’re different in the contiguous United States than they are in Alaska and Hawaii.
The poverty guidelines increase with each family member living in a household. For example, a family of two has a lower threshold than a family of five does. The more people who live in a home, the more income is necessary to meet the federal poverty guidelines.
If your income isn’t sufficient to qualify you for a green card on your own, your sponsor or another responsible person will have to fill out Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, to show the U.S. government that you won’t become dependent on government assistance programs.
Related: Should you get a green card?
What About Active Duty Military Members?
Active duty military members who are sponsoring a spouse or child must only meet 100 percent of the federal poverty guidelines to qualify. That means you won’t need an Affidavit of Support if your family income is at the poverty level.
Additionally, a person can qualify to sponsor you if they are active duty military and their salary falls at or above the actual poverty level.
Financial Requirements for a Sponsor Filling Out an Affidavit of Support
The person who signs an Affidavit of Support must meet certain requirements; if they don’t, the U.S. government will reject the petition. The financial sponsor must:
- Be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder) who is at least 18 years old and lives in the United States
- Have an annual income that’s at least 125 percent of the poverty guidelines for their family size.
Sponsors aren’t limited to only income, though. They may use other types of assets, such as cash on-hand, stocks and bonds, and property such as a home to show that they have enough money to sponsor the immigrant.
The sponsor does not have to be a family or household member. Someone else can sponsor an immigrant. If the sponsor doesn’t make enough money on their own, another person can co-apply with an Affidavit of Support.
Additionally, the immigrant themselves can count their own income – but only if they will continue to bring in that income after obtaining a green card.
When Does a Sponsor’s Commitment End?
Because an Affidavit of Support is a contract between the immigrant’s financial sponsor and the U.S. government, the agreement stays intact until one of the following four things happen:
- The person seeking a green card becomes a U.S. citizen
- Either spouse dies
- The person seeking a green card has worked in the U.S. for 40 quarters (if the person works straight through, with no breaks in employment, that’s 10 years)
- The person seeking a green card moves out of the country permanently
Benefits and the Affidavit of Support
The Affidavit of Support is intended to show the U.S. government that the person immigrating to the United States will not need to become reliant on public benefits. Public benefits can come from the federal government or the state government.
Federal Public Benefits
Federal means-tested public benefits – money that a person receives because they have a low income – include:
- Food stamps
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
State Public Benefits
Each state can determine which of its own benefits (if any) are means-tested. If a state determines that it does have such programs, you can find out what they are at the state’s public assistance office.
Programs That Do Not Qualify as Means-Tested Benefits
Some benefits do not count as means-tested benefits, and using them won’t harm your ability to get a green card. Those benefits include:
- Emergency Medicaid
- Free school lunches and other services provided under the National School Lunch and Child Nutrition Acts
- Head Start programs
- Immunizations and testing, as well as treatment for communicable diseases
- Job Training Partnership Act programs
- Means-tested programs that fall under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
- Short-term, non-cash emergency relief
- Some forms of foster care or adoption assistance under the Social Security Act
- Student assistance under the Higher Education Act and the Public Health Service Act
Common Questions About the Affidavit of Support
Check out the most common questions about the Affidavit of Support. If you don’t see the answer you’re looking for, call our office to schedule a free consultation – we can help.
Can a Lawyer Submit Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) for You?
Your attorney can fill out and file a Form I-864 for you.
Who Can Financially Sponsor an Immigrant?
A sponsor must:
- Be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who lives in the United States
- Be over the age of 18
- Earn at least 125 percent of the current federal poverty guidelines, unless they are an active duty member of the military; in that case, they must earn 100 percent of the current federal poverty guidelines
How Long is an Affidavit of Support Valid?
An Affidavit of Support stays in effect until the person who is being sponsored becomes a naturalized U.S. citizen, has worked for 40 quarters in the U.S., or moves out of the U.S. permanently.
If one spouse dies, the agreement is no longer valid. Other than those four instances, the Affidavit of Support remains in effect forever and does not expire.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Income and an Affidavit of Support for a Green Card?
If you have questions about income or the Affidavit of Support when it comes to obtaining a green card, we may be able to help.
Call our office now to schedule a free consultation with an experienced, caring immigration attorney who can answer your questions and give you the guidance you need.