spouse doesn't meet income requirement

Spouse Doesn’t Meet Income Requirement for I-864 Affidavit Of Support

Meeting the income requirement is one of the most important factors that USCIS uses to determine eligibility for a visa or green card. It can be very stressful when your US spouse doesn’t meet income requirement. 💵

Being unemployed or simply not making enough money can put a halt to your green card application. Don’t worry though, you can  still get a green card as long as you can find a cosponsor (or joint sponsor) to help meet the income gap.

A cosponsor (sometimes called a joint sponsor) is someone who is a US citizen or LPR that makes enough money for their household size plus the intending immigrant. The joint sponsor doesn’t need to be a family member, but they will be asked to provide very personal financial documents to the US government. 🤔

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Learn more about the affidavit of support forms.

Case Example:

Samual married Emily 3 months ago and they have begun preparing their I-130 and I-485 to adjust her status in the United States. After putting together their case, they mail it off and waited for a response from USCIS.

Samual is currently a student so he didn’t make enough money to support Emily. So, to help him meet the income requirement, he asked his dad to be a joint sponsor. Samual’s dad makes 85,000 and has 2 kids and a wife. This means his household size will be four plus Emily.

Affidavit of Support When Spouse Doesn’t Meet Income Requirement

The affidavit of support is a contract between the sponsor (US citizen or LPR) and the U.S. Government promising to support your immigrant spouse financially.

Sound scary? 😱

Being a public charge is one ground of inadmissibility.  All green card applicants must have a sponsor that meets the income requirement so they don’t become a public charge.

USCIS doesn’t want to allow people who will be fully dependent on the government for their livelihood which then fall on the backs of tax payers.

Completing and signing this form makes you the sponsor (or cosponsor). You must show on this form that you have enough income and/or assets to maintain the intending immigrant(s) and the rest of your household.
Sometimes, the sponsor doesn’t make enough money to meet the income requirement which is 125% of the poverty guideline. In this case, you’re allowed to use assets to help fill in the gap. Assets are only considered if they are liquid and available quickly.
This can include cash, savings, investments, rental real estate and so on.
However, you won’t be able to use your personal residence (unless you have already sold it for cash) or retirement accounts. These are not considered liquid enough to convert quickly into cash.

2019 USCIS Federal Poverty Guidelines

 For the 48 Contiguous States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands:
Household Size Annual Income Required
Active Military (100%) Civilians/Vets (125%)
2 $14,570.00 $18,212.00
3 $18,310.00 $22,887.00
4 $22,050.00 $27,562.00
5 $25,790.00 $32,237.00
6 $29,530.00 $36,912.00
7 $33,270.00 $41,587.00
8 $37,010.00 $46,262.00

When the I-864 is completed and signed, the US citizen agrees to use their resources to support the intending immigrant(s) named in the form.

Once the form I-864 is submitted, the sponsored immigrant becomes ineligible for certain Federal, State, or local means-tested public benefits, because an agency that provides means-tested public benefits will consider the US citizen’s resources and assets as available to the sponsored immigrant in determining his or her eligibility for the program.
If as a new immigrant you receive one of the designated Federal, State or local means-tested public benefits, the US government providing the benefit may require the US sponsor to repay the cost of those benefits.
Additionally, the US government can sue the US citizen if the cost of the benefits provided is not repaid. Not all benefits are considered to be means-tested public benefits.

What Counts As Means Tested Benefits?

Let’s take a look at some welfare programs that would count against you if you were to ever use them. I’m specifically talking about means-tested benefits that are off limits to new immigrants.

List of means-tested benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • Working tax credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit
  • Housing Benefit

From the list above, you can see that many of the programs are for individuals or families that meet the “low income” definition. This means that someone would only get approved if they made less than a certain amount of money for their household.

Additionally, it’s important to know that as a new green card holder you are not eligible for means-tested benefits for 5 years. There is no way to rush this. 😖

However, if you become a US citizen before the 5 year ban on means-tested benefits you can use the programs without it negatively affecting your status.

spouse doesn't meet income requirement

How to withdraw your I-864 if you change our mind.

What If US Citizen Spouse Is Self-Employed?

Many Americans are self employed or contractors that are 1099 workers. In these cases, it can mean that the US spouse doesn’t meet the income requirement and will need a joint sponsor.

This means that you are responsible for filing your taxes quarterly to the IRS and are not considered an “official” employee of a company. The same rules apply to self-employed sponsors as their employed counterparts but what many fail to do is report all of their income. 🤥

Anyone who has worked for themselves understands that you want to minimize your income. You do this by including all of your business expenses but this can backfire when it comes to sponsoring a relative.

USCIS will use your taxable income when they calculate the minimum requirement. So, if you are trying to minimize your taxable income this can equate to not meeting the income requirement in the eyes of USCIS.

You have to show that you can support the immigrant spouse and that your income is 125% above the poverty line.

If you are currently self-employed, a copy of your Schedule C, D, E or F from your most recent Federal Tax Return which establishes your income from your business can be submitted.

If finding a cosponsor or using assets isn’t possible, you may need to deduct less expenses on your taxes so you can show you made more money.
This is a catch-22 that many self employed sponsors face and it’s similar to circumstances you face when trying to get a home loan.

Using Joint Sponsor To Help Meet Income Requirement

A joint sponsor can be any U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or lawful permanent resident who is at least 18 years old.

A joint sponsor does not have to be related to the petitioning sponsor or the intending immigrant. You can ask a friend, cousin, coworker and just about anyone else that makes enough money.

The tough part is getting them to agree to be a joint sponsor and divulge their financial life to you and the US government.

Remember, once you sign the I-864 you are on the hook for any means-tested benefits that foreign immigrant applies for. I’ve heard of rare cases where the US government actually sued the sponsor under the terms of the I-864.

Although a lawsuit brought by the US government is very rare, it is still possible. 😧

If the first joint sponsor completes Form I-864 but still doesn’t meet the income requirement for their household size, a second qualifying joint sponsor will be required to sponsor the remaining family members.

Interestingly, USCIS also allows you to use the income and assets of the beneficiary but there are some strict requirements for this option.

 There can be no more than two joint sponsors.

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A joint sponsor must be able to meet the income requirements for all the persons he or she is sponsoring without combining resources with the petitioning sponsor or a second joint sponsor.

Any dependents applying for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status more than 6 months after immigration of the intending immigrants must be sponsored by the petitioner but may be sponsored by an original joint sponsor or a different joint sponsor.

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