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To successfully serve as a Form I-864 sponsor an individual needs to be able to demonstrate sufficient financial wherewithal. Specifically, he needs to show that his income is at or above 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. If his income is below that level the shortfall can potentially be made up with assets as discussed in this section. If the individual’s income and assets are insufficient then the case will be able to proceed only with the help of an additional sponsor.
Sponsor’s U.S. residence.
To serve as an Affidavit of Support sponsor, the U.S. citizen needs to be currently living in the United States. This is a requirement in addition to looking at the individual’s level of income. The residence requirement most frequently becomes an issue where the U.S. citizen has been living abroad and is planning to move back to the U.S. at the same time as his foreign spouse or fiancee. Fortunately, under the immigration rules, an individual is considered to reside in the U.S., for purpose of the Affidavit of Support, if he is in the process of returning to the U.S. It is usually fairly obvious that the citizen is planning to return to the U.S. if he is seeking residency status for his spouse or fiancee.
Relocation, however, presents another problem. Even if the spouse can show that he is returning to the U.S., he also need to demonstrate that he has adequate income to serve as a sponsor. That income needs to be from U.S. employment. When our clients return to the U.S. they very often transition from a foreign employer to a new position with a U.S. company. In those scenarios, income from the U.S. employer will not necessarily suffice for the Affidavit of Support. As a rule of thumb, the immigration authorities want to see six months of employment in a new position before counting that income for purpose of the Affidavit of Support. Thus, citizens relocating the the United States – even those with solid professional jobs – will often need a joint sponsor to complete the immigration process. A key exception are those who have assets that can be used instead of showing income, as explained here.
Meeting the income requirement.
The income requirements for sponsors is defined by reference to the Federal Poverty Guidelines. These are published annually by Health and Human Services. USCIS republishes them on the Form I-864P, which is available at https://www.uscis.gov/i-864p. Sponsors are required to demonstrate income at or above 125% of th Federal Poverty Guidelines for their household size. For a household consisting of just the sponsor and intending immigrant, that is roughly $20,000 per year.
To determine you required income level you first need to determine your household size. For purpose of the Form I-864, household size is defined by law. It does not simply refer to the people who are physically living together. The following individuals all need to be counted to determine your household size:
You yourself as the sponsor;
Your spouse and all of your children by birth, marriage, or adoption who are actually living with you;
Any person you list as a dependent on your Federal income tax return for the most recent year, even if they have a different primary address;
Any immigrants whom you previously sponsored using a Form I-864, if the obligation has not terminated;
All family members of who are immigrating at the same time or within six months of the principal immigrant listed on the Form I-864; and
Any nondependent siblings, parents, or adult children who reside in the sponsor’s household who are not dependents, *if* they complete a Form I-864-A.
Note that each individual is counted only once for purpose of calculating household size.
How to determine the sponsor’s income level.
The rules used to determine a sponsor’s income level can be somewhat confusing. By default, the immigration agencies look to the sponsor’s most recent federal income tax returns to judge income level. If the sponsor filed a Form 1040, income level is defined by the “total income” reported on the form; if the sponsor filed a Form 1040EZ then income level is defined by the “adjusted gross income” reported no the form. If that reported income level is at or above the amount required by the Form I-864 – and if the sponsor has had no change in employment – then the financial requirement of the Form I-864 is met.
But what if the sponsor did have a change of employment? If the sponsor’s income has changed since the his last tax filing then he will need to report new income level. Minor upwards or downward changes do not necessarily need to be reported. So, for example, you do not necessarily need to calculate a new annual income level based on a raise that the sponsor just received. The issue, rather, is where a sponsor does not meet the financial requirement based on the previous year’s tax return, but now earns income above the required level.
If the sponsor has a new job – or received a raise – that puts income above the required level, then you can report that as the sponsor’s current annual income. Please note that if you do this you will need to provide pay stubs to validate the newly claimed income. As a rule of thumb, the immigration agencies like to see 6 months or longer in a new position to consider the income for purpose of the Affidavit of Support.
In addition to 6 months of pay stubs for a new position it is also a good idea to provide an original, signed letter from your employer stating your date of hire and current salary.