I-864 Requirements Checklist: Your Complete Guide to Affidavit of Support Documents

The United States immigration system requires various forms and documents from those seeking to live permanently in the country. Among these is the I-864 Affidavit of Support form, a legally enforceable contract between a visa applicant and their sponsor. This form demonstrates that the immigrant will not become a public charge and relies on the sponsor’s financial support. The sponsor, typically a family member or employer, must prove through this affidavit that they have sufficient income or assets to support the immigrant according to the U.S. government’s thresholds.

To complete the I-864 form accurately and avoid delays in the immigration process, a systematic checklist is essential. It encompasses proof of the sponsor’s citizenship or lawful permanent resident status, evidence of income such as tax returns and employment letters, and other supporting financial documents.

The requirements are set to ensure that the sponsor can maintain income at 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for their household size, including the intending immigrant.

The legal implications of signing an I-864 form are significant. The commitment lasts until the immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen, can be credited with 40 quarters of work, departs the United States permanently, or passes away. Consequently, understanding the affidavit’s requirements is paramount for both the sponsor and the immigrant to facilitate a smooth and compliant immigration process.

Eligibility Criteria

The I-864, Affidavit of Support, involves specific eligibility requirements that sponsors and applicants must meet to ensure the successful processing of the form. It is critical for both parties to understand and comply with these criteria to uphold the legal obligations set forth by the USCIS.

Sponsor Eligibility

The sponsor must be:

  • A U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or lawful permanent resident
  • At least 18 years old
  • Domiciled in the U.S. or its territories or possessions

Sponsors must also demonstrate the ability to maintain an annual income of at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for their household size. This income level increases to 100% for sponsors who are on active duty and are sponsoring their spouse or child.

Principal Applicant Eligibility

The principal applicant must be:

  • An intending immigrant, for whom the sponsor is submitting the affidavit of support
  • Selected for immigration to the U.S. based on a family-based or certain employment-based visa categories

The principal applicant’s eligibility is contingent upon the sponsor meeting the necessary income requirements to provide support.

Household Size Requirements

The household size determines the minimum income requirement needed to sponsor the intending immigrant. It includes:

  • The sponsor
  • The sponsor’s spouse
  • The sponsor’s dependent children
  • Any other dependents listed on the sponsor’s tax returns
  • Any immigrants previously sponsored with an I-864 form who are still under the sponsor’s obligation

In calculating the household size, sponsors must include the principal applicant and any accompanying relatives who will also be intending immigrants. The total household size then directly correlates with the income threshold that the sponsor must meet or exceed.

Financial Requirements

Ensuring the immigrant does not become a public charge is a fundamental requirement for sponsors filling out Form I-864, the Affidavit of Support. This section outlines the specific financial criteria that the sponsor must meet, including adhering to Federal Poverty Guidelines, properly calculating income, and evaluating assets.

Federal Poverty Guidelines

Sponsors must demonstrate that they have an income of at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelinesfor their household size, including the sponsored immigrant. Below is the table for the 48 contiguous states and Washington D.C. Different guidelines apply for residents of Alaska and Hawaii.

Household Size 125% Minimum Income Requirement
1 $16,237.50
2 $21,737.50
3 $27,237.50
4 $32,737.50
5 $38,237.50
(Add for each additional person) $5,600.00

Income Calculation

The sponsor’s total income is calculated by using their most recent federal income tax return. It should include all taxable income sources such as:

  • Wages or salaries
  • Self-employment income
  • Interest or dividends
  • Retirement benefits

If the sponsor’s income is insufficient, they may include the income of other household members, provided these members have signed an IRS Form I-864A, Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member.

Assets Evaluation

In instances where the sponsor’s income does not meet the required threshold, they can use the value of their assets to satisfy the income requirement. Acceptable assets include:

  • Savings and checking accounts
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Property

To count toward the income requirement, the total value of the assets must equal at least five times the difference between the sponsor’s income and the required income level (the amount varies for U.S. citizens sponsoring a spouse or child).

Document Checklist

When preparing the I-864, Affidavit of Support form, it is essential that petitioners collect and organize a comprehensive set of documents. These documents verify the ability to financially support the immigrant and demonstrate compliance with the requirements set by the USCIS.

Proof of Income

Petitioners must provide evidence of income to establish they meet or surpass the 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. This evidence includes:

  • Recent pay stubs: Covering the most recent six months.
  • Employment letter: Must state the petitioner’s salary and the terms of employment.

Legal Identification Documents

Each petitioner is required to furnish valid legal identification documents, for instance:

  • Photocopy of a valid passport.
  • Driver’s license or state ID.

Federal Income Tax Returns

Submission of tax returns is necessary to support the income reported. Petitioners should include:

  • IRS Form 1040: Copies of the most recent tax returns (typically the last three years).
  • W-2s or 1099s: If applicable, for the corresponding tax years.

Proof of Domicile

Petitioners must establish that they maintain a domicile in the United States. Suitable documentation includes:

  • Utility bills: Demonstrating the petitioner’s name and U.S. address.
  • Lease or mortgage: Indicating the petitioner’s residence.

Supporting Documents

Other supporting documents to be included are:

  • Proof of assets: Bank statements, property deeds, or appraisal values, if using assets to meet the income requirement.
  • Proof of relationship to the immigrant: Marriage certificates, birth certificates, or similar documents, as applicable.

Submission Process

The submission process for Form I-864, the Affidavit of Support, involves a structured procedure that includes completing the form accurately, collecting the necessary evidentiary documents, and submitting these items to the appropriate authorities. The applicant must follow each step meticulously to ensure a successful application.

Completing Form I-864

Applicants must fill out Form I-864 using CAPITAL letters on a computer and print it out for submission. Each question should be answered with accuracy, and all required sections must be complete to avoid processing delays.

Gathering Supporting Evidence

Supporting documents are critical in the affidavit submission. These comprise the sponsor’s financial evidence, such as:

  • Tax returns
  • Wage statements
  • Proof of assets

Each piece of evidence should be organized and clear, reflecting the sponsor’s financial capability to support the immigrant.

Submitting the Affidavit

The principal immigrant must submit one original Form I-864 for their file, signed in black ink, alongside the supporting financial documents. Additionally, they should include photocopies of the complete Form I-864 for any accompanying family members. The entire package is then sent to the designated filing location as specified by the current instructions for Form I-864.

Legal Considerations

The legal framework surrounding the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, is vital for both the sponsor and the immigrant to understand. It establishes enforceable duties and conditions that must be met to maintain its validity.

Affidavit Validity

The Form I-864 is a legally binding document, and its validity extends from the time it is signed until the sponsored immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen, has worked 40 quarters credited towards Social Security, leaves the United States, or passes away. The sponsor must complete the form accurately and provide the required supporting documents to demonstrate financial ability.

Sponsor’s Legal Obligations

A sponsor who signs the Form I-864 pledges to support the immigrant financially. This means that if the immigrant does not have the means to support themselves, it is the sponsor’s legal responsibility to provide support at a level of at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Sponsors should be aware that their obligations are enforceable and the government or the immigrant may take legal action to recover any support not provided.

Divorce or Separation Implications

Divorce or separation from the immigrant does not terminate the obligations of the sponsor under the I-864 contract. The sponsor’s responsibility to support the immigrant at the aforementioned level continues despite changes in marital status, as legally the obligations of the I-864 are separate from any divorce proceedings.

After Submission

Once the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, has been submitted, the focus shifts to the USCIS for review and decision-making. Applicants should be prepared for possible communication from USCIS and understand the steps leading to the final decision.

USCIS Review Process

After the Form I-864 is received, USCIS conducts a thorough review to determine the sponsor’s financial ability to support the immigrant. This process includes verification of the sponsor’s income against the submitted evidence, such as tax returns and employment letters. Consistency in the submitted documents is crucial for a smooth review process.

Responding to Requests for Evidence

USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) if additional information is required. Sponsors should:

  • Respond promptly to avoid delays.
  • Provide all requested information in an organized manner to facilitate a quick resolution.

Case Decision Notification

Applicants will be notified of the decision in writing. The notification will either indicate approval of the affidavit, thus moving the immigration process forward, or it will detail the reasons for any denial, giving the sponsor an understanding of any shortcomings in the application.