A version of this article first appeared in the Side Bar journal for the Litigation…
Part 6 is an extremely important section of the Form I-864. Most problems we observe with the Form I-864 come from incorrect answers on this section.
Household versus individual income. This section asks you to report both your individual income (item 2) and your current household income (item 15). Your “Household income” means your income as reported on your most recent IRS tax return. If you filed a Form 1040 return you must report your total income; if you filed a Form 1040EZ you report your adjusted gross income. This distinction is extremely important!
Your individual income will be different from your household income if you filed joint tax returns with a. If you did, then you will need to isolate which of the reported income was yours versus the souse. To do this, refer to your W-2 from the most recent tax years, along with any Forms 1099 or Schedules showing your income.
It is extremely important that the numbers in this Part add up correctly. Household Income must equal the sum of the individual income reported for each household member. For household with complex income, it will be easiest to ask your accountant to provide a statement showing the breakdown of income between household members.
What if your income went up or down since the last time you filed federal tax returns?
If you income has changed since the last time you filed taxes then you will need to report your new income level. Please note that if you do this you will need to provide 6 months of paystubs to validate the newly claimed income. It is also a good idea to provide an original, signed letter from your employer stating your date of hire and current salary. This poses a substantial extra burden for you. If your most recent reported income was above the required level, it will be far easier to simply report that number. The immigration service defines “income” as what was reported on the most recent returns.
The I-864 can get very complicated for someone who is self-employed. For a sponsor without W-2 income, she/he will have the task of carefully documenting the sources of income in a way that can be understood by the immigration services. Here are things you may wish to consider providing in the case of self-employment. Note that these are in addition to the income tax documentation, which is required in call cases:
- Profit/loss statement. This is a helpful way to show the immigration service that the self-employed sponsor is making money.
- Bank statements. 12 months of bank statements for the business. If the sponsor has been using a personal bank account for business income/expenses then it is critical to provide separate accounting of business cash flow.
- Federal business tax returns. If the sponsor files a Schedule C with her/his personal income tax returns this should be provided, along with any other schedules and/or 1099s showing income.
Non-taxable income. Non-taxable income may be used to meet the required financial support amount, such as the following scenarios. Be careful to provide documentation of these benefits, since by definition they will not be accounted for in your reported “total income” on tax returns.
- Social Security earnings.
- Investment earnings.
- Legal settlements.
- Inherited funds.
- Life insurance proceeds.
- Disability insurance and disability compensation.
- Unemployment insurance. Note that this is problematic, as the immigration service may have concerns about the longevity of such benefits, which are limited in duration.