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INA §212(a)(4), 8 U.S.C. §1182(a)(4).
This ground of inadmissibility may be the one that creates the most common problem for fiancée applicants.
Your fiancée is inadmissible if the immigration agencies determine that she is likely to become a “public charge.” That essentially means that the agency thinks she will become dependent on public welfare programs. The agencies assess this by looking both at the foreign national and also at you as the U.S. petitioner and sponsor.
In terms of your involvement, a mandatory component of the visa and adjustment processes is that you sign agreements financially support your fiancée. We discuss the form itself elsewhere in this resource.
The thing to consider at the eligibility-assessment stage is whether you will be able to show sufficient income – as the petitioner – to meet the requirements of the Affidavits. In short, you will need to be able to demonstrate income at or above 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for your household size. Your household includes everyone actually living with you, and also your fiancée. In 2017 the required income level is $20,300 for a household size of two. You can find the current guidelines on the Form I-864P at https://www.uscis.gov/i-864p.
If you do not meet the required income level then you will need to find an additional “joint sponsor” to sign an additional Affidavit of Support. That can be anyone over the age of 18, residing in the U.S., who is a U.S. citizen or resident. Without a qualifying financial sponsor, however, your fiancée will not be able to complete the process.
Ironically, many of our most financially successful clients are the ones who encounter problems with the Affidavit of Support. Our entrepreneurial, business-owning clients tend to do complex things with their money. Their business might be going great, but they choose not to draw a salary, and look “poor” on paper. This can be a major problem when it comes to the Affidavit of Support, which is based on income reported on federal tax returns.
If you have any concerns about whether you will meet the requirements for the Affidavit of Support, jump ahead to that section of this resource for more details on what you will need to show.
Public charge inadmissibility, of course, also looks at your fiancée or spouse.
Even if you meet the requirements for the Affidavit of Support, the immigration agencies still look at whether the foreign national might become dependent on welfare. The agencies can consider factors like the fiancée’s age, chronic illness, physical or mental handicap, advanced age, or other serious conditions. If anyone of those factors is present in your case you will need to be prepared to demonstrate a plan for how you will be providing for your fiancée’s needs.
The most common issue to run into in this regard is chronic illness. If the foreign national has an ailment that will require expensive ongoing treatment, the immigration agencies are going to want to know how that is going to be paid for. Usually, these concerns can best be addressed by showing that the foreign national can be included on the US citizen’s health care plan. This can be as simple as documenting that I a letter from your insurance provider or human resources department. If the foreign national will be getting healthcare through another provider, that will need to be documented. Make it easy for the immigration officer to understand how treatment is going to be provided for. If you don’t have a good answer to that question, this is something to consider and address early in the process so you don’t end up in a pinch later.