I-134 vs I-864: Understanding the Differences in Affidavit of Support Forms

The United States immigration system utilizes various forms to navigate the complexities of legal entry and residency, with each serving a distinct purpose. Among these, the I-134 and I-864 forms are pivotal in the process of sponsoring an individual wishing to live in the United States. The I-134, officially known as the Declaration of Financial Support, is typically used in nonimmigrant visa cases such as travel or K-1 fiancé visas. This form is filled out by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to promise financial support to the visa applicant during their stay.

In contrast, the I-864 form, also an Affidavit of Support, is a more binding document required for immigrant visa cases for individuals seeking permanent residency. It is a testament to the sponsor’s financial ability to support the immigrant to ensure they are not likely to become a public charge. This form is not just a promise but a legally enforceable contract between the sponsor and the U.S. government.

Understanding the differences between these two forms is crucial for both sponsors and potential immigrants. It is essential to ensure the correct form is completed and filed, as each has specific eligibility requirements, evidentiary standards, and submission processes that are integral to the success of the visa application.

Overview of I-134

The Form I-134, known as the Affidavit of Support, is a document used to show that a visa applicant has sponsorship and will not become a public charge while in the United States.

Purpose of I-134

The I-134 is primarily used for nonimmigrant visa applicants. Its purpose is to demonstrate that they have adequate financial support during their temporary stay in the U.S. It is commonly utilized by individuals applying for temporary, nonimmigrant visas, like tourist or student visas.

Eligibility Criteria

The eligibility to submit an I-134 form requires the sponsor to be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. The sponsor must also demonstrate the financial ability to support the visitor for the duration of their stay.

Key Features

  • Financial Responsibility: The sponsor commits to supporting the visa applicant financially.
  • Proof of Funds: Sponsors must provide evidence such as bank statements or employment letters to prove financial stability.
  • Duration: It is valid for the period the visa holder intends to stay in the U.S.

Overview of I-864

The Form I-864, Affidavit of Support under Section 213A of the INA, is a legally enforceable contract between a visa applicant’s sponsor and the U.S. government, ensuring that the immigrant has adequate means of financial support and is not likely to become a public charge.

Purpose of I-864

The I-864 Affidavit of Support is designed to assure the U.S. government that the immigrant has adequate financial support from a sponsor. This form is used primarily for family-based immigrants and some employment-based immigrants to demonstrate that they will not rely on government assistance.

Eligibility Criteria

  • The sponsor must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
  • The sponsor must be at least 18 years old.
  • The sponsor must have an income of at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
  • The sponsor must be domiciled in the United States or a U.S. territory.

Key Features

  • Legally Binding: It creates a binding agreement between the sponsor and the U.S. government.
  • Income Requirements: The sponsor must prove income levels meet or exceed 125% of the federal poverty line.
  • Validity Period: The obligations last until the immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen, can be credited with 40 qualifying quarters of work, dies, or permanently leaves the United States.

Comparison Between I-134 and I-864

The I-134 and I-864 forms are distinct in their legal obligations, the scope of financial responsibility, and how long they remain valid. Understanding these differences is crucial for potential sponsors.

Legal Binding Differences

The Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA, is a legally binding contract between a sponsor and the U.S. government. Sponsors using this form are required to support immigrants financially until they become U.S. citizens or can be credited with 40 quarters of work (typically 10 years). In contrast, the Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, is not enforceable by law and is typically used for temporary visitors to show they have financial support during their stay.

Financial Responsibility

I-864:

  • Used for family-based and some employment-based immigrants.
  • Requires the sponsor to demonstrate the ability to maintain an annual income of at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

I-134:

  • Generally used for non-immigrant visa applicants, including fiancé(e)s and other temporary visitors.
  • Less stringent in terms of the income requirement, and the sponsor must simply show that the visitor will not become a public charge.

Validity Period

The Form I-864 remains in effect until the immigrant either becomes a U.S. citizen, earns 40 quarters of work credits, permanently leaves the United States, or passes away. On the other hand, the Form I-134 is typically only valid for the period of the visitor’s stay in the U.S. and does not impose any long-term financial obligations on the sponsor after the visitor’s visa expires or they leave the country.

Usage Scenarios

In determining whether to use Form I-134 or I-864, one must consider the visa category involved: non-immigrant or immigrant, and the specific requirements associated with each form.

When to Use I-134

Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, is typically used for non-immigrant visa categories. This includes situations where someone is sponsoring a foreign national to visit the United States temporarily. Key visa types where Form I-134 is applicable include:

  • Fiancé(e) visas (K-1 or K-3)
  • Student visas (such as F and M visas)
  • Exchange visitor visas (J visas)

When to Use I-864

Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA, is required for most immigrant visa applications. This form is a legal contract between a sponsor and the U.S. government, whereby the sponsor pledges to financially support the immigrant visa applicant. Common scenarios where Form I-864 is necessary include:

  • Spousal and other immediate relative visa applications
  • Some employment-based immigration cases, when a relative has filed the immigrant visa petition or has a five percent or greater ownership interest in the business that filed the petition

Filing Process

When filing either Form I-134 or I-864, each requires specific documentation and adherence to distinct submission procedures. These forms are critical for the sponsoring of immigrants, as they provide a legal commitment to financially support the individual seeking residency.

Documentation Required for I-134

  • Proof of Income: Sponsor’s recent tax returns, pay stubs, and/or employment letters.
  • Proof of Citizenship or Residence: Legible photocopy of the sponsor’s U.S. passport, birth certificate, or green card.

Documentation Required for I-864

  • Federal Income Tax Return: Most recent return, with W-2s or 1099 forms.
  • Proof of Employment: Current employment letter and pay stubs from the last six months.
  • Legal Status Documents: Copy of the sponsor’s U.S. passport, birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or green card.
  • Financial Documentation: Evidence of assets, if needed, to meet income requirements.

Submission Procedures

  • I-134: Generally filed with the U.S. consulate or embassy where the immigrant is applying for their visa.
  • I-864: Submitted to the National Visa Center (NVC) when sponsoring an immigrant for a Green Card, usually attached to the immigrant’s visa application after the petitioner receives a case number from NVC.

Documents must be original or certified copies, and any documents not in English require a certified translation. Each form’s instructions offer detailed guidance on submission and should be followed exactly to avoid processing delays.

Common Mistakes and Issues

When completing the I-134 and I-864 forms, applicants often encounter a range of mistakes. To ensure a successful process, it is critical to understand and avoid common errors.

Errors in I-134

  • Incorrect Information: Filling in outdated or incorrect personal details can lead to delays. Applicants must double-check all entries for accuracy.
  • Financial Details: Not providing the anticipated income for the current calendar year can result in form rejection.

Errors in I-864

  • Miscalculation of Income: The sponsor must report their current annual income accurately, rather than the income reported in the previous year’s tax documents.
  • Failure to Notify USCIS of Address Changes: A sponsor must inform USCIS within 30 days of moving by submitting Form I-865.

Avoiding Issues

  • Review and Revise: Each form should be reviewed multiple times for errors or omissions.
  • Accurate Documentation: Ensure all financial documentation reflects the most current information and supports the income claimed.

Additional Resources

When seeking to navigate the complexities of immigration forms I-134 and I-864, additional resources provide valuable guidance. These resources can offer clarity and expert assistance, ensuring compliance with legal requirements.

Legal Advice on Affidavits of Support

Individuals may seek professional legal advice to understand the nuances between Form I-134 and Form I-864Immigration attorneys can provide personalized guidance tailored to specific circumstances. They ensure that petitioners select the correct form and fulfill all the obligations associated with the Affidavit of Support. For those who cannot afford an attorney, non-profit organizations may provide assistance or referrals to pro bono services.

Government Guidelines and Forms

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the primary resource for finding up-to-date government guidelines and downloadable versions of immigration forms, including I-134 and I-864. Their website contains detailed instructions for each form:

  • The Affidavit of Support Form I-864 is typically used for family-based immigrants and some employment-based immigrants, facilitating a promise of financial support to ensure the immigrant does not become a public charge.
  • Form I-134, Declaration of Financial Support, is generally for use with nonimmigrant visas, such as for students or fiancées.

Petitioners can visit the official USCIS website for accurate forms and instruction guides that detail the requirements and procedures for submitting these affidavits of support.