A version of this article first appeared in the Side Bar journal for the Litigation…
Tax season makes filing out the I-864 even more complicated. Here’s a common situation that we see often. It’s February or March. You haven’t yet filed last year’s income taxes. But you also got a bit of a raise, so your “current income” is different than previous tax years. As required, you report the past three years of income tax returns on that I-864… but what should you put for “current income?” Should you report what was listed on last year’s W-2?
Basically there are two option.
Option 1 – get your income returns filed.
The best strategy is usually to get your income tax returns filed. In the past we’ve seen Requests for Evidence (RFE) when I-864s are filed around tax season. The reason is that the immigration agency wants to see the most recent income. Remember that it will likely take at least 30 days (often much longer) for the agency to review your I-864. If you file I-864 in February, March or April, there’s a good chance that the agency will review it after “tax day” (April 15th). In that situation the agency may send that I-864 back to you, asking you to redo the I-864 with last year’s income returns. The agency may do this even if they review the I-864 before tax day. So if at all possible I strongly recommend you get those income returns filed, then submit the I-864.
Option 2 – document last year’s income.
Sometime its not realistic to get income returns filed, especially if it’s early in the season (e.g., February). We see this most often with Joint Sponsors, who aren’t as motivated to go through extra hassle for the I-864. The general rule for the I-864 is that “current income” on the I-864 must match the most recent “total income” reported on the I-864. (Read our free I-864 guide for more details on that issue). If there is any difference between those two numbers (e.g., you got a raise) then you need to provide documentation of the new income. The normal way to do this is with 6 months of pay stubs. In the situation we’re discussing you could also use the W-2.
Photo credit: Sira Anamwong @ freedigitalphotos.com