USCIS proposes new public charge rules: changes impact public benefits and the Form I-864 for adjustment applicants
A version of this article will appear in Bender's Immigration Bulletin and is republished here…
You need to complete this section of the form only if your reported income in Part 6 was less than 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for your household size. Here are those Guidelines for 2015 (they are adjusted each year):
If your income was not at or above the required level, then you may use financial assets to make up the difference. How much is required? Follow these steps to find out:
The rule for assets is that they must be “available in the United States for the applicant’s support and must be readily convertible to cash within one year.” What does this mean? That you are allowed to count an asset only if you can sell it, and have the resulting cash in the U.S., within 12 months. So obviously the ideal assets would be money in a U.S. bank account, since that’s U.S. cash that’s immediately available. But it is common for joint sponsors to need to rely on other forms of assets, and these require some more careful assessment. Types of assets may include stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, and property (both real estate and other forms of property).
Documenting the asset. You are required to provide the following documentation for any asset you report in Part 7:
This documentation generally does not need to be notarized. In the case of a checking account, for example, you may simply provide copies of your last 12 months of statements to satisfy all requirements above. Issues with proof of valuation are most common when real estate is used. Ideally a recent appraisal of the property would be provided. Since this is expensive to obtain, sponsors often submit alternative evidence instead, such as tax assessment records and a free valuation from an online real estate site such as Zillow.com. Such alternative evidence may not be accepted by the immigration services, however.
You may include the assets of another household member (see Part 7, item 5), but only if: (1) the household member completes a Form I-864A; and (2) the household member has been living with you for a minimum of 6 months. The household member’s assets need to be documented for the Form I-864A in the same way described above. You should also present proof that the person has been living at your address for the required 6 months, such as a rental agreement listing the individual, or bills sent to the address with that person’s name.
You are allowed to count assets owned by the primary sponsored immigrant. Importantly, however, the immigrant’s assets may be counted by only one sponsor. So if you are a joint sponsor, you need to ensure that the primary sponsor has not already reported the immigrant’s assets on his/her Form I-864. If the immigrant’s assets are available for you to report, the immigrant does not need to complete a Form I-864A. But you will need to provide documentation of the assets as described above (showing ownership, etc.).
What if you want to rely on assets in a foreign country? This is theoretically possible, but complex. Remember that the assets need to be available as cash in the U.S. within 12 months, if needed. You would need to provide documentation that it would be possible for you to make this happen, if needed. This would be relatively easy, for example, in the case of a London bank account, and a notarized letter from your banker should be sufficient. But the case becomes far more complex with countries who have less close financial ties to the U.S. For other countries you would be wise to provide a notarized legal opinion statement from an attorney explaining that the assets could be sold and proceeds transferred if needed. For any non-U.S. assets there is a good chance you will receive a time-consuming request for additional documentation from the immigration service.