A version of this article first appeared in the Side Bar journal for the Litigation…
The Department of State announced yesterday that original ink signatures are no longer required on I-864 series forms. Instead, applicants may provide photocopies of the the form, rather than the original. This new policy will make it easier for applicants to comply with standards at the National Visa Center (NVC). The policy takes effect on January 1, 2017.
The new policy applies to the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, and also applies to the I-864A, I-864W, and I-864EZ. Signatures on those forms may now be copies of the original. Typed names and electronic signatures, such as the DocuSign platform, are not acceptable.
It was already the case that applicants could submit copies – rather than originals – of other supporting documents, when working with the NVC. The new policy on I-864s means that the NVC requires no original documents in immigrant visa cases.
An original signature is still required at time of interview.
Although an applicant can get through the NVC with a copy of the I-864, an original must be presented at the time of the interview. The Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) is the official guidelines for the Department of State, including U.S. consulates. At the end of November, the FAM was revised to state:
The Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) is the official guidelines for the Department of State, including U.S. consulates. At the end of November, the FAM was revised to state:
Required signatures do not need to be notarized. This includes the signature of the sponsor(s), or the sponsor’s household members or dependents on Form I-864 and Form I-864-EZ, Affidavit of Support under Section 213A of the Act; Form I-864-A; and Form I-864-W. Consular officers should not require ink signature on the I-864. A photocopy of the I-864 with the sponsor’s signature is sufficient. A typed or printed name is not acceptable.
The italicized text above appears as bright pink text in the online FAM. At first glance, this makes it appear that an original I-864 is not required by U.S. consulates.
But just a few lines later, the FAM states:
Each individual must still present Form I-864 at the time of the visa interview (so that it becomes part of the Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants) and the signatures on each affidavit must be original (not required to be notarized).
This second provision appears to require an ink signature at the time of the visa interview. That is, we assume an “original signature” is the same as an “ink signature.”
This reading would be consistent with how the FAM deals with other original documents. Protocol varies by consulate, but some consulates require copies of documents in advance of a visa interview. The applicant then brings originals of those documents – such her birth certificate – to the interview.
Still, the new policy will allow applicants to get through the NVC more smoothly. Since other original documents are required at the time of the interview, bringing an original I-864 will not be much extra hassle.