When a US citizen files an application for lawful permanent residence on behalf of a spouse, the US citizen petitioner is required to submit an affidavit of support on behalf of their immigrant spouse. The affidavit of support is a way for the US government to ensure that the immigrant will not become dependent on the US government for financial support. If the immigrant ends up using certain types of public assistance (For example: Food stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) the US government can require the US citizen to repay that money.
The US government wants to make sure that the US citizen has the money to repay the government if the immigrant ends up using public assistance. One way that the US government determines the ability of the US citizen to pay back the government is by asking for tax filing information from the US citizen. A typical affidavit of support filing will include a copy of the US citizen’s most recent tax return and W-2 statement. The government wants to make sure that the US citizen’s income is at least 125% above the poverty level for a household that is the same size as that of the US citizen’s household. USCIS publishes the poverty guidelines each year on form I-864P.
On occasion I will get a client whose income is below 125% of the poverty level set out on form I-864P. All is not lost in this situation. If the US citizen cannot prove that his/her income is above the 125% threshold they can use alternative methods to satisfy the government that it will not be paying for the immigrants basic needs.
One alternative is to find a joint sponsor to file an affidavit of support on behalf of the immigrant. The joint sponsor must be a US citizen or lawful permanent resident. The joint sponsor must also be able to meet the poverty guidelines mentioned above. The joint sponsor will also be on the hook if the immigrant ends up using public assistance. This is a serious obligation that is not to be taken lightly. The obligation will continue until the immigrant becomes a US citizen, has worked 40 quarters in the US, leaves the US permanently or dies.
Another way to satisfy affidavit of support requirements if your income is below the 125% threshold is to use your assets. You may add the cash value of your assets. This includes money in savings accounts, stocks, bonds, and property. To determine the amount of assets required to qualify, subtract your household income from the minimum income requirement (125% of the poverty level for your family size). You must prove the cash value of your assets is worth five times this difference (the amount left over).
The information in this article is very basic and general in nature. There is much more that goes into filing the affidavit of support and its various requirements and exceptions. If you’re not sure about the affidavit of support requirements you should contact a qualified immigration attorney before filing anything with USCIS.