An affidavit of support may be involved in your U.S. visa application process. An affidavit of support is a document signed by friends and family who are agreeing to sponsor you during your move to the United States.
Typically, the affidavit of support must be signed by a U.S. citizen or resident (i.e. a citizen, a Green Card holder, or a lawful permanent resident).
The person who signs the affidavit of support must agree to support the visa applicant financially during the applicant’s move to the United States.
An affidavit of support is not required for all U.S. visa applicants. Sometimes, the U.S. government may require an affidavit of support if they believe the applicant does not have the financial means to support himself during a visit to the United States. If you plan to visit the United States for 3 months but only have $500 in your bank account, for example, then you may need an affidavit of support for your visa to be approved.
Affidavits of support may be required for both immigrant and non-immigrant visas. You might sign an affidavit of support agreeing to support a relative financially during a trip to the United States.
Or, when signing an affidavit of support for an immigrant visa, you may be agreeing to support the applicant financially in the United States while the applicant establishes a new life. You might provide food and housing until the applicant finds his own job and accommodation, for example.
How Does an Affidavit of Support Work?
An affidavit of support shows the U.S. government that the applicant will not be forced to rely on U.S. government welfare programs while in the United States.
The United States government does not want to accept immigrants in the United States who will use welfare programs. That’s why certain immigrant visa applicants (i.e. Green Card applicants) will need an affidavit of support from a U.S. citizen or resident.
Many immigrants arrive in the United States with no income and no immediate job offer. In this case, you might have limited means of supporting yourself financially. You don’t know how long it will take to set yourself up at a new job. That’s why an affidavit of support may be required to prove that you will be financially covered by friends or family while you get yourself established.
When Does the Affidavit of Support Expire?
Essentially, the affidavit of support is a contract between the applicant’s sponsor and the U.S. government. By signing the affidavit, the sponsor agrees to support the applicant for an indefinite period of time. The agreements may end when the following situations occur:
- The applicant becomes a U.S. citizen
- The applicant works for more than 40 quarters in the United States
- The applicant dies
The sponsor’s obligations to the applicant continue until the above conditions are met. Until these conditions are met, the sponsor must support the applicant financially in the United States.
In many cases, the applicant’s sponsor is a family member who has already become a U.S. resident or citizen. A family member with a Green Card and Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status might sign an affidavit of support allowing you to come to the United States, for example.
In other cases, the applicant’s sponsor is a spouse. Your spouse might have already arrived in the United States and established LPR status. However, the sponsor’s obligations to the applicant do not end if the couple gets divorced. Again, the sponsor’s obligations to the applicant continue until the above situations occur.
When a U.S. visa applicant has an affidavit of support, it prevents them from qualifying for many means-tested programs in the United States, including food stamps and Medicaid. If the applicant receives these benefits from the United States government, then the sponsor may be required to compensate the U.S. government.
Who Needs an Affidavit of Support?
Certain groups of immigrants automatically require an affidavit of support. Children, for example, require an affidavit of support. Other immigrants and non-immigrants may require an affidavit of support only in certain situations.
Generally, the immigrants that require an affidavit of support include:
- Any immigrants applying for an immediate relative immigrant visa, including the spouse, unmarried children under 21 years of age, and other qualifying family members
- Any immigrants applying for a family-based immigrant visa, including the unmarried children and siblings of U.S. citizens and permanent residents
- Anyone applying for an employment-based immigrant visa when the petitioner is a U.S. citizen, a Lawful Permanent Resident (i.e. a Green Card holder), or a U.S. national relative with 5% or more ownership interest in the petitioning entity
Anyone who requires an affidavit of support will need to complete Form I-864.
Who Does Not Require an Affidavit of Support?
Not all immigrants need an affidavit of support prior to arriving in the United States. Immigrants who meet the following qualifications may not need an affidavit of support:
- Immigrants who have worked in the United States for at least 40 credits; in some cases, immigrants can receive credit from the work history of a spouse or parent
- Immigrants who will gain U.S. citizenship upon entering the United States
- Those who have self-petitioned their immigrant application with an approved Form I-360
- Those who have self-petitioned as battered spouses or children with an approved Form I-360
Anyone who does not need an affidavit of support must file Form I-864W, Intending Immigrant’s Affidavit of Support Exemption.
What Are the Requirements for an Affidavit of Support?
The petitioner signing the affidavit of support must meet certain requirements in order for the signature to be valid. The petitioner or sponsor must meet these criteria:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (i.e. a Green Card holder)
- Have a valid U.S. address and be currently residing in the United States
- Have filed Form I-129F, Form I-130, Form I-600, Form I-800, or Form I-140
- Meet income requirements showing their income is at least 125% of the current federal poverty guidelines based on household income
What Happens If My Sponsor Does Not Meet the Requirements?
The sponsor signing your affidavit of support must meet the qualifications above. Your sponsor must always be a U.S. citizen or resident, for example, and there is no way around this rule.
However, if your sponsor does not meet the income requirements, then there are certain other options:
- You can add the cash value of the assets of your sponsor, including savings accounts, bonds, stocks, or property; if the total value adds up to at least five times the difference between the household income and the 125% requirement, then the individual can sponsor you
- U.S. citizens sponsoring a spouse or child must have an asset value at least 3 times higher
- Parents sponsoring orphans for adoption must have a value equal to the difference of their household income and the 125% requirement
- In other words, if your sponsor’s household income is $25,000 per year and 125% of the federal poverty guideline limit is $20,000, then your sponsor must have a total asset cash value of $25,000 (5 times the difference of $5,000) in order to qualify as your sponsor
- You may be able to add a joint sponsor to qualify for the income requirement, provided the joint sponsor meets certain requirements
- The joint sponsor can be a member of the household related to the applicant by birth, adoption or marriage
- The joint sponsor must be listed as a dependent on the main sponsor’s most recent federal tax return documents
- The joint sponsor must have been living with the main sponsor for the last six months
- The joint sponsor must also agree to sponsor the applicant
- If you are active duty U.S. military sponsoring a spouse or child, then you only need to prove income of 100% of the federal poverty guidelines (unlike the 125% that is typically required); active duty can include members of the U.S. Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, or Coast Guard
How to Apply for an Affidavit of Support
A U.S. citizen or resident must sign the affidavit of support if one is required. To obtain this affidavit, your sponsor must file Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The sponsor may also be required to attach supporting documents related to the immigrant visa, including information about the immigrant being sponsored. The sponsor must sign the form in black ink.
Sponsors are advised to read the affidavit of support thoroughly. It is an important legal document that can have huge repercussions on your financial future. Furthermore, incorrect or fraudulent information can lead to USCIS denying the application.
Typical Documents Required for an Affidavit of Support Include:
- Proof you are a U.S. citizen or LPR (Green Card holder), including a birth certificate, a passport, a naturalization certificate, or a permanent resident card
- Your most recent federal tax return in the correct page order and stabled together
- If the sponsor does not have a recent tax return, then the sponsor can provide a letter proving their earnings are below the income required to file taxes
- Or, the sponsor can provide a document proving they are exempt from filing tax returns
- Proof of assets, including the location and value of your assets (like a house, a savings account, or stocks)
- Bank statements and other financial documents
- Documents may show the date you opened the bank account, the amount deposited in the last year, and the present balance of the account
- A Statement from the sponsor’s employer
- The statement must explain the dates and position of the sponsor’s employment, the wage or salary, and whether the job is permanent or temporary
- If the sponsor is self-employed, the sponsor must submit their last income tax returns
- If the sponsor has bonds, the sponsor must submit the serial numbers, denominations, and the name of the owners
- Joint sponsors may be required to submit additional documents, including:
- A completed Form I-864A
- Proof that you are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (proof can be a passport, birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or Green Card)
- Copy of your most recent tax returns
- Proof of your assets, including the location and value of those assets
How Much Does an Affidavit of Support Cost?
There are no initial fees for filing an affidavit of support. However, once the National Visa Center has processed the documents and determined the applicant’s eligibility, the sponsor will need to pay a fee of $120.
The NVC will send you a notice when it’s time to make a payment. That notice will include your case number and invoice ID number. You can pay the $120 application fee online through all major payment methods. Or, you can mail a check to the NVC.
How Long Does It Take to Process the Affidavit of Support?
After the NVC receives the documents from USCIS, the NVC will process those documents.
It typically takes 4 to 6 weeks to process the affidavit of support and all associated documents.
The final decision on the affidavit of support will be completed once the NVC has received payment for your fee. If any documents are missing or if your fees were not paid, then the NVC will not process the case and issue the affidavit of support.
Ultimately, an affidavit of support is required for many immigrant arrivals to the United States. By following the guide above, you can ensure you complete a smooth and easy affidavit of support submission process.