Form I-361: Understanding Affidavit of Financial Support Requirements

Form I-361, known as the Affidavit of Financial Support and Intent to Petition for Legal Custody, is a document used in United States immigration proceedings. This affidavit is filed in support of Form I-360, Petition to Classify Amerasian as the Child, Son, or Daughter of a U.S. Citizen, and it serves a critical role in the Amerasian immigration process. Specifically, the affidavit is used to sponsor individuals born in certain Asian countries who were fathered by U.S. citizens.

This form is relevant to the Amerasian Act, passed under Public Law 97-359, which facilitates the immigration of individuals from Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Kampuchea, and Thailand who were born between December 31, 1950, and October 22, 1982. The U.S. citizen sponsoring the Amerasian individual demonstrates their intention to support the beneficiary financially and, if necessary, to petition for legal custody. The submission of Form I-361 is a declaration of the U.S. citizen’s commitment to ensure that their Amerasian relative will not become a public charge upon entry into the United States.

The U.S. citizen sponsoring the Amerasian individual demonstrates their intention to support the beneficiary financially and, if necessary, to petition for legal custody. The submission of Form I-361 is a declaration of the U.S. citizen’s commitment to ensure that their Amerasian relative will not become a public charge upon entry into the United States.

The information required for Form I-361 includes personal details about the sponsor, such as name, date of birth, and contact information. Additional details, such as the Alien Registration Number (A-Number) and Social Security Number, may also be requested if applicable. The completion and submission of this affidavit are paramount in affirming a sponsor’s readiness and financial capability to support an Amerasian relative seeking to immigrate to the United States.

Overview of Form I-361

Form I-361, titled Affidavit of Financial Support and Intent to Petition for Legal Custody, is a document utilized by individuals who intend to provide financial support and, if necessary, seek legal custody for certain categories of foreign nationals.

This form is particularly relevant for:

  • Amerasians (individuals born in specific Asian countries with an American parent)
  • Refugees or asylees family sponsorship

The main purposes of Form I-361 are:

  1. Financial Commitment: To demonstrate the sponsor’s agreement to financially support an Amerasian for a period of at least five years.
  2. Legal Custody Intent: When applicable, to express the intent to petition for legal custody of an Amerasian child under 18 years of age.

Administration and Filing:

  • Managed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  • Information required includes the sponsor’s personal details, financial status, and details of the individual being sponsored.
  • The form is available for download at the USCIS website or can be obtained from local USCIS offices.

It is important for sponsors to ensure that all provided information is accurate and complete to avoid any potential delays or complications in the process. Additionally, they must be prepared to uphold the financial commitment outlined within the affidavit.

Eligibility Requirements

Form I-361 serves as a binding agreement for individuals pledging financial support or intending to petition for legal custody of an Amerasian individual. Certain eligibility requirements must be met by these individuals.

Qualifying Relationships

  • Amerasian: The most prominent category of eligibility includes Amerasians, as defined under Public Law 97-359, who are seeking classification as the child, son, or daughter of a U.S. citizen.
  • Sponsors: Only U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents can execute the affidavit. These sponsors must be at least 21 years of age and possess good moral character.

Sponsorship Criteria

  • Age and Citizenship: The sponsor must be 21 years or older and a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
  • Financial Responsibility: They must furnish support for a five-year period. This includes proving the ability to maintain income at a specified level above the poverty line for this duration.

Application Process

The application process for Form I-361 involves a sequence of steps that applicants must follow carefully, ensuring all required documents are accurately prepared and submitted according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) guidelines.

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Obtain Form I-361: The applicant can download Form I-361 from the official USCIS website or pick up a copy from a local USCIS office.
  2. Complete Form I-361: The applicant must provide all requested information accurately, such as the petitioner’s financial details and commitment to support the beneficiary.
  3. Gather Supporting Documents: Assemble all necessary documents, which may vary based on the applicant’s specific circumstances.
  4. Review and Sign the Form: Verify that all information is correct and sign the form to affirm its accuracy.
  5. Submit the Form: Send the completed form along with the supporting documents to the address provided by USCIS for processing.

Required Documents

  • Proof of Relationship: Documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, or court orders which establish the relationship between the sponsor and the beneficiary.
  • Financial Evidence: Evidence of financial ability to support the beneficiary, such as tax returns, employment records, or bank statements.
  • Legal Custody Proof: (If applicable) Legal documents affirming the petitioner’s intent to obtain legal custody of the beneficiary.

Submission Details

  • Address: The applicant must submit the form to the USCIS address specified for Form I-361 submissions.
  • Filing Fee: Currently, there is no fee for filing Form I-361, but applicants should verify this with the latest USCIS guidelines to confirm.
  • Processing Time: Processing times may vary; applicants can check current timeframes on the USCIS ‘Processing Times’ page.

Obligations of Sponsors

When sponsoring an individual through Form I-361, sponsors are bound by specific financial and legal commitments. These obligations ensure the sponsored person does not rely on public resources and is sufficiently supported during their stay in the United States.

Financial Responsibilities

A sponsor must demonstrate the ability to maintain income at at least 125% of the federal Poverty Guidelines. This economic threshold is crucial in ensuring that the sponsored individual will not need government assistance.

  • Income Requirements: A sponsor’s income and assets must align with the current year’s Poverty Guidelines, factoring in the household size.
  • Duration of Support: The financial support obligation typically spans five years, starting from the date of the sponsored individual’s admission to the United States.

Legal Liabilities

The affidavit of support creates a legally enforceable contract between the sponsor and the U.S. government.

  • Enforceability: Should the sponsored individual claim government assistance, the sponsor can be held legally responsible for repaying the cost.
  • Termination of Liability: A sponsor’s responsibility may terminate only when the sponsored individual becomes a U.S. citizen or has worked for 40 quarters, credited toward Social Security benefits.

Government Agencies Involved

When dealing with Form I-361, primarily two government entities are involved: the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration policies and procedures, and the Social Security Administration, which may be involved in verifying social security numbers and financial records for sponsorship purposes.

Department of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a critical role in the processing and verification of Form I-361. This form is part of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is an agency under DHS. USCIS uses this form to assess the financial support and intention of a U.S. citizen to petition for legal custody of an Amerasian individual.

Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is involved in cases where a sponsor needs to provide their Social Security number as part of the affidavit. SSA’s cooperation with USCIS ensures that the financial information supplied by the sponsor matches with the federal records, containing a myriad of data such as income and social security benefits.

Rights of the Beneficiary

The beneficiary of Form I-361 carries certain rights upon the approval of their application. These rights are in accordance to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations and are crucial for their legal protections and benefits.

Financial Support: The primary right of the beneficiary under Form I-361 is to receive financial support from their sponsor. This support is intended to ensure the beneficiary does not become a public charge upon their arrival in the United States.

Legal Status: Beneficiaries have the right to seek legal status in the U.S. if their application is linked with Form I-360, Petition to Classify Amerasian as the Child, Son, or Daughter of a U.S. Citizen. This could potentially lead to obtaining a Green Card.

  • Placement and Care: For Amerasian beneficiaries under 18, they must be placed with the sponsor in accordance with the laws of the relevant U.S. State. The placement agency must be appropriate and recognized by the public, private, or State.

Documentation and Information: Beneficiaries hold the right to accurate information regarding their application’s status and are entitled to receive copies of documents related to their case.

It is crucial for beneficiaries to understand their rights fully to ensure fair treatment and leverage the benefits afforded to them through the USCIS processes. They are also encouraged to seek assistance from authorized entities if any rights seem to be compromised.

Expiration and Termination

When considering Form I-361, it’s crucial to understand its validity constraints and the circumstances under which it can be terminated.

Validity Period

Form I-361 does not have a standard expiry date; however, its validity is inherently linked to the associated Form I-360. Since Form I-361 serves as an affidavit of financial support in conjunction with Form I-360, its validity extends as long as the Form I-360 is active and has not been adjudicated.

Conditions for Termination

Termination of Form I-361 occurs under several conditions:

  1. Approval or Denial of Form I-360: If the accompanying Form I-360 petition is approved or denied, the affidavit of financial support no longer serves its purpose and hence is terminated.
  2. Withdrawal: If the petitioner withdraws Form I-360, Form I-361 is similarly withdrawn.
  3. Change in Circumstances: Material changes in the petitioner’s financial situation or in the relationship with the beneficiary may lead to termination.

These are the specific scenarios under which the Form I-361 would cease to be valid or enforceable.

Renewal and Modifications

Form I-361, known as the “Affidavit of Financial Support and Intent to Petition for Legal Custody of Public Law 97-359 Amerasian,” does not typically undergo a renewal process as it’s associated with a one-time immigration petition. This form is a declaration of financial responsibility for an Amerasian individual, stating that the petitioner will provide support for a five-year period, or intends to petition for legal custody if the beneficiary is under 18 years.

Modifications to Form I-361 are not standard once submitted. If changes are essential, such as an address change or significant alterations to the financial situation stated on the affidavit, the petitioner should contact the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) directly.

In general, to address modifications, follow these guidelines:

  • Contact USCIS: Consult with them for the most appropriate steps.
  • Submit Documentation: Provide supporting documents for changes.
  • Formal Request: In certain cases, a letter detailing the modifications might be required.

Due to the specific nature of Form I-361, which ties to the status of a specific immigrating individual, modifications would generally relate to updates in the sponsor’s personal information rather than changes to the support agreement itself.

The petitioner is advised to maintain accurate and current records with USCIS to ensure legal compliance and to support the immigration process of the Amerasian beneficiary. If legal custody parameters change, especially for a minor, immediate legal advice and communication with USCIS are imperative.

Appeals and Legal Recourse

When an individual files Form I-361, Affidavit of Financial Support and Intent to Petition for Legal Custody, as part of the immigration process and receives an unfavorable decision, there are specific steps for seeking appeals and legal recourse.

Firstly, it is essential to understand that not all decisions are appealable. For decisions that can be appealed, applicants typically have 30 days from the date of the decision to file an appeal. The appeal must be submitted to the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) or the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), depending on the type of case.

Key Considerations for Appeal:

  • Timeliness: Appeals must be filed within the specified timeframe.
  • Grounds: Clear reasons for the appeal need to be stated, often related to legal errors or misinterpretation of the law or facts.

Steps in the Appeals Process:

  1. Review the denial notice for appeal instructions.
  2. File the appropriate form, typically Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.
  3. Pay the required fee, unless a fee waiver is obtained.
  4. Submit any additional evidence or briefs that support the appeal.

Applicants should also be aware that AAO precedent decisions can introduce new legal interpretations or clarify existing laws and policies. If an applicant’s case presents unique facts, these decisions may directly impact the outcome of an appeal.

An individual may also seek judicial review in federal court if they believe the decision was in error, but this is usually after exhausting the available administrative remedies.

Remember, an appeal is a complex legal process, and seeking advice from a trusted immigration attorney can prove invaluable.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

When completing Form I-361, Affidavit of Financial Support and Intent to Petition for Legal Custody for Public Law 97-359 Amerasian, applicants often encounter a few pitfalls. Awareness and careful attention to the following details can help avoid these common errors:

  • Incorrect Fees: Applicants occasionally submit the incorrect fee amount. They should verify the current fee on the official USCIS website or by contacting USCIS directly.
  • Unacceptable Payment Methods: USCIS does not accept all forms of payment. Applicants should ensure that they use an acceptable method, such as a check or money order, payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  • Signature Requirements: Every affidavit must be validly signed. Printed names or stamped signatures are not accepted. Applicants under 14 or those who are mentally incompetent may have a parent or legal guardian sign on their behalf.
  • Incomplete Forms: Leaving sections of the form blank may lead to application denial. Applicants must provide all requested information or explain why the information is not applicable.
  • Outdated Forms: Using old versions of the form can result in rejection. Always download the latest version from the USCIS website.

To further aid applicants, here is a checklist:

Checklist Item Description
Verify Fee Amount Check the latest fee on the USCIS website.
Confirm Payment Method Use a check or money order payable to the appropriate entity.
Ensure Proper Signing Sign manually; no stamped or typed names.
Complete All Form Sections Fill out every part of the form or provide necessary explanations.
Use the Most Recent Form Version Obtain the latest form version to avoid processing delays.

By following these guidelines and staying diligent in their application process, applicants can greatly reduce the likelihood of common mistakes.

Resources and Assistance

Applicants seeking to file Form I-361 can access multiple resources, ensuring accurate completion and submission of their forms. Official guides offer comprehensive directions, while immigration assistance centers provide personalized help.

Official Guides and Forms

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) maintains updated versions of Form I-361, along with detailed instructions on its website. Applicants should:

  • Download the latest Form I-361 here.
  • Consult the Instructions for Form I-361 here, which cover necessary documentation and filing guidelines.

Immigration Assistance Centers

Immigration assistance centers across the country provide support for individuals completing Form I-361. Applicants can:

  • Locate nearby assistance centers via the USCIS Local Offices directory here.
  • Benefit from services such as form review and legal advice to ensure the form is filed correctly and supporting documents are in order.