calculate household size

Calculate Household Size For The I-864 Income Requirement

Many sponsors make several mistakes when they calculate household size for the affidavit of support. Why? Because the instructions on form I-864 are pretty much useless.

Determining if you make enough income to sponsor your relative is based on your actual household size. What this means is the number of people that you support will be counted to make sure you meet the income requirement before you can petition for your family member.

I’ve seen cases where an applicant was denied because USCIS thought they didn’t meet the income requirement, when in fact, they did.

How could this be?

Well, if you add a household member twice when calculating household size, it will make your income seem less than what it is. Basically, the more people that are dependent on you, the more money you have to make.

So, when you’re completing the I-864 affidavit of support you want to limit the household size only to the people that are financially dependent on you.

This can include minor children and parents who live with you.

How To Calculate Household Size On The I-864

Below is Part 5 of the I-864 affidavit of support.

This is the area that gives a lot of sponsor trouble because it’s not clear exactly how to include everyone in your household. Although the form states “do not count any member of your household more than once”, the actual instructions are still not clear.

So, let’s learn exactly how to calculate household size and fill out form I-864 properly.

I864 part 4 5

Question 1: This box will auto populate with the number of beneficiaries that you are sponsoring. If it’s just your foreign spouse then it will be 1. But if you are sponsoring a spouse and child it will then b 2.

Question 2: This box will also auto populate to include yourself as one of the dependents. This is mandatory. You can’t not include yourself because you are dependent on your own income.

Question 3: This question is only for those of you who are NOT sponsoring a foreign spouse. For example, if you are sponsoring a child or parent and are currently married and your spouse lives with you in the US, enter 1. Otherwise enter 0 if you are sponsoring your foreign spouse.

Question 4: If you have dependent children, enter the number in this box. Remember, dependent children are minors or adults that financially depend on your income. You should include all children that you have claimed on last year’s tax return.

Question 5: If you have other people who are dependent on your income such as elderly parents or children that don’t live with you include them here.

Question 6: This question asks if you were a sponsor before on a different I-864 for any other immigrant. It’s hard to know whether any previous affidavits are still enforced unless you know for sure that the immigrant has become a US citizen, abandoned their green card, worked for 10 years or died. To be safe, include anyone that you have sponsored in the last 10 years.

Question 7: This question is optional if you want to combine household income of any adult living with you. If you choose to use their income, they’ll need to complete form I-864A as well as provide evidence of their income. If you won’t be combining income, then you don’t need to include them in the household size.

Question 8: This will auto populate all the numbers you’ve already put in the boxes above. Double check your answers to make sure no one has been counted more than once.

Case Example:

Barbara is petitioning for her German husband Jonah. She has 2 children aged 4 and 8 while Jonah has no children and is the only one immigrating to the US.

When calculating the household size, Barbara includes her two children and herself as well as Jonah. This brings her total household size to 4 people.

Learn how to fill out the I-864 affidavit of support.

Calculate Household Size With Divorce and Custody

With marriages resulting in divorce in about half the time, it can get confusing on whether you ex-spouse would be considered a dependent.

Simple answer is no.

If you ex-spouse lives in their own home and you don’t claim them on your taxes (at least you shouldn’t), you can exclude them when you calculate household size.

But, if you are paying alimony to them then you must include them when you calculate household size because some of your income is being diverted to supporting them and will not be available for the beneficiary you are sponsoring.

What if you don’t have full custody of your children?

If your children are still dependent on you as their parent, even if they don’t live with you, they must be included in the household size.

I know this may be confusing especially if the other parent has full custody of the children. You are still financially responsible for them until they reach the age of 18.

Here’s the kicker: even if you don’t claim the child on your taxes and have no visitation allowed, you STILL have to include them in your household size. This can really affect your case if you have a lot of children with an ex-spouse.

Case Example:

Mike has 3 children with his ex-wife and is petitioning for his new wife Janet. Although Mike shares custody of his 3 children with his ex-spouse, he rarely gets to see them and he doesn’t claim them on his tax returns.

When calculating his household size, Mike includes his 3 children as well as Janet. This brings his household size to 5 people. Even though he currently lives alone and it will only be himself and his wife Janet living in his home, he still must include his children as dependents.

Limits To Number Of Immigrants You Can Sponsor

If you’re having trouble meeting the income requirement as the sponsor, consider only sponsoring the primary beneficiary. What I mean by this is if your foreign spouse also has teenage children that can wait to sponsored later.

This will limit the number of immigrants that you sponsor and help you  meet the income requirement.

I understand that this may not be possible in all cases but it can be an option for those of you who barely meet the income requirement or having trouble finding a joint sponsor.

If you don’t want to leave other family members behind, consider using a joint sponsor or combining household income to help meet the minimum income requirement.

Case Example:

Jack is petition for his Filipino wife Sandra. She has 4 children aged 10-17 and she wants to bring them all with her to the US but Jack’s income isn’t enough to support them all.

After discussing their options, they decide to petition for the older two children at a later date. Sandra will then bring her younger two children with her when she enters the US. Once Sandra gets her green card and finds a job, they will petition for her other two children to move to the US to join them.

Final Thoughts On Calculating Household Size On I-864

This post was all about how to calculate household size but another big factor in sponsoring a relative is making enough income. Every year the US government releases the new poverty guidelines requirements that every sponsor must meet.

The minimum income requirement can be found on form I-864P.

By carefully reading the instructions on form I-864 and using this post as a guide, you will correctly be able to determine your household size. Then, you can see if you make enough money to sponsor your family member.

If you’re still unsure how to calculate household size, send me an email and I’ll be happy to help you figure it out.

The process is pretty simple but if you make a mistake when calculating your household size, it can result in visa a denial. This is why you want to make sure you do it right the first time.

Another thing you need to be careful of is if you hired an immigration attorney to file the I-864, be sure to review the form before they submit it. They may have mistakenly included the wrong number of people in your household and you can use the excuse of “my lawyer made a mistake”.

Did this post help you to calculate your household size? Do you meet the income requirement for your household size? Let me know in the comments below.



  1. Angela

    I would love to know how you calculate household size if you are using a co-sponsor AND you don’t live with that co-sponsor?

    I am interested in the answer in regards to I-129F and filling out the I-134 Affidavit of Support. As I am confused what the amount would be on the poverty guidelines and we have previously received 2 different answers. The foreign country is Dubai, UAE; co-sponsors are allowed. If you could please let us know we would greatly appreciate it.

    Our co-sponsor has 3 children plus herself.

    My household (the petitioner) has 1 child and myself. (We do not live with the co-sponsor and we do not file taxes or share expenses with the co-sponsor.)

    I would like to know the household size for the above situation, please and thank you.

  2. Hi Angela,

    That’s a great question! For your co-sponsor/joint sponsor they will need to include their children (all dependents) plus themselves and the beneficiary. This would mean that their household size would be 5 and would need to meet the income requirement of $29,420 as of 2018. Your household size would be 3 but since you are using a joint sponsor, it may only matter what their household size is compared to their income. Good luck!

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