After working at the National Visa Center (NVC)  for two years, I can verify that people are often confused by the Affidavit of Support form and requirements. The NVC prepares cases to send to foreign embassies for the interview, and it often takes some time for these forms to be completed right, especially if the applicants are unfamiliar with the forms. If you’re filing a family-based I-130 green card petition, there has to be a financial sponsor for the intending immigrant in most cases. The immigrant is called the “beneficiary” or “principal applicant.” The U.S. relative is called the petitioner, and must file an I-864 Affidavit of Support. This is a serious legal agreement the sponsor signs to be financially responsible for the intending immigrant.  The petitioner must submit this form even if s/he has no income or income below the required amount, which in most cases is 125% of the Poverty Guidelines.

Other people can help the sponsor meet the income requirement: (1) A “household member” can combine their income with the petitioner’s and even of other household members; or (2) A ‘joint sponsor” can separately sponsor the immigrant. A joint sponsor does not have to be related to the immigrant but must be a U.S. citizen or Legal Permanent Resident, and a joint sponsor does not combine income with the petitioner. The income requirement may be different for the petitioner and the joint sponsor, depending on the household size of each; the more people who live in your household, the more income you must have. You can use assets that can be converted to cash within 12 months to meet the requirements; in most cases you must have five (5) times the assets that you require in income. For example, if your income is $5,000 below the Poverty Guidelines amount, you’ll need to have $25,000 in eligible assets to meet the shortfall.

Sometimes a sponsor is not required and a Form I-864W is filed to show the immigrant is exempt. This occurs if the immigrant can be credited with 40 quarters of coverage under the Social Security Act, is a child who will automatically become a U.S. citizen immediately upon entry, or if you are a self-petitioning widow/er, battered spouse or child. In all cases in which a sponsor is required, the sponsor has to provide documents to verify tax returns, income, and assets claimed in the forms. If you’re still confused – and there’s good reason to be! – take a look at the NVC’s website or contact us for assistance.