I’m sure you’ve never heard of the term “affidavit of support”, right? Neither did I until I began the process of immigrating to the United States. So, what is an affidavit of support? It sounds like a serious legal document, doesn’t it?
Simply put: the affidavit of support is a legal document that you (as the petitioner) signs promising USCIS that you will financially support the intending immigrant.
That’s not all though. Since the affidavit of support is a legally binding document, the US government can and does take you to court if the beneficiary ever gets on public assistance.
This is serious business! You should only complete the affidavit of support (either I-864 or I-134) if you intend to financially support the intending immigrant whether you stay together or not.
Emily met and married her husband 8 months ago. She is pregnant with their first child and she wants to bring her husband to the US to live with her before the child is born. She is a US citizen and has completed form I-864 promising financial support for her husband until the legal document expires (we’ll go over this later).
After they were approved for the CR1 spouse visa, trouble started. Her husband became verbally abusive towards her and she feared for her safety and her child’s welfare. After a few months go by, Emily decides to separate from her husband and live with her parents. Not fully understanding her legal requirement under the affidavit of support, she thinks that their separation and future divorce will end her obligations.
Unfortunately, this is where many US citizens get caught up with the affidavit of support. The legal requirement that you financially support your spouse doesn’t end simply because you separate or divorce.
We will go into further detail about when your legal obligation under the affidavit of support ends.
Who Need To Complete An Affidavit of Support
Anyone who intends to bring a foreigner to the US on an immigrant visa such as the CR1 spouse visa will be required to complete and sign the affidavit of support.
Without this document, USCIS will not allow anyone to enter the US on an immigrant visa because of the risk of becoming a public charge.
What is a public charge?
A public charge is someone who applies for and receives government welfare. USCIS considers any means-tested benefit that is received a public charge. You do not want to be labeled as a public charge because it basically means you won’t be allowed into the United States.
What are means-tested benefits?
Means-tested benefits are a category of government welfare programs that people who are in poverty would qualify for. Generally, most immigrants must wait at least 5 years (hold a green card for this long) before they become eligible.
There also may be some means-tested benefits that only US citizens qualify for. Check with your state before applying for any benefits if you are not a US citizen.
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
But here’s the good news. If your spouse applies for means-tested benefits but is denied, USCIS will not come after you as the sponsor for anything. This is because your spouse didn’t actually receive any benefits to begin with.
If, however, they do receive means-tested benefits, be ready for USCIS to take you to court to try to recover the funds. Although it is rare for USCIS to sue you for the funds, it’s not unheard of.
Difference Between Form I-864 and I-134
The two different types of affidavit of support forms are the I-864 and the I-134.
Basically, they are very similar in the types of questions these two forms ask but the details required are a bit different. Form I-864 is much longer and requires more financial documentation and information than the I-134.
Another big difference between form I-864 and I-134 is that the former is legally binding while the latter is not. Interesting, right?
The I-864 is used to financially support someone who is intending to move to the US and live here permanently.
The I-134 is used to financially support someone who is temporary seeking to live in the US to work or study but plans to go back home before the nonimmigrant visa expires.
Note: The K1 visa is a unique situation because it is considered a nonimmigrant visa but infant the beneficiary intends to live in the US permanently after adjusting status. This is why the K1 visa allows you to complete the I-134 but then you will be required to submit the I-864 to adjust your status.
The income requirement for the affidavit of support is published by USCIS every year. It increases a tiny amount every single year to keep up with inflation.
Below is a chart that outlines the 2018 income requirement for both immigrant (I-864) and nonimmigrant (I-134) visas.
|Household Size||Annual Income Required|
|I-134 (100%)||I-864 (125%)|
Completing I-864 or I-134 When You’re Unemployed
Being unemployed can be a problem if you are trying to financially support someone immigrating to the US. USCIS doesn’t like to approve an application if there is a high risk that the beneficiary will become a public charge.
But don’t fret, my friend! You can use joint sponsor to help meet the income requirement above.
Being a student is also considered being unemployed to USCIS unless you have some type of income coming in.
No – you can’t use student loans as proof of income! Sorry, that is debt and not sustainable in the long term. Check out the resources linked above to find a joint sponsor to help you meet the income requirement.
Using Retirement Income For Affidavit of Support
For those of you who are retired and receiving Social Security, you can definitely use this type of income on the affidavit of support. This is considered income and it is stable and long term which USCIS tends to like.
To prove your retirement income, you can request a earnings statement from the Social Security Administration (SSA). You can also include copies of your bank statement that show regular deposits from SSA.
Remember, retirement income must still meet the minimum income requirement. If it’s not enough, you can either use your assets to meet the requirement or you can find a joint sponsor that meets the income requirement.
Legal Obligations of The Affidavit of Support
Divorce and separation will not end your financial obligations under the affidavit of support. Sucks, I know.
Even if you are no longer with the beneficiary, you are still legally required to financially support them and to make sure they don’t apply (and get) government welfare.
You might be thinking “how will I know if they apply for welfare if we are no longer together?”
It doesn’t matter! If they apply, you are on the hook to pay back the US government. You just better hope they decide not to come after you but be prepared if they do.
So, when will your financial obligations end under the affidavit of support?
- The death of either spouse.
- If you or the beneficiary dies, the financial obligation ends immediately. Being on your death bed doesn’t. Sorry. Being critically ill also doesn’t end the obligation to financially support the immigrant either. Only death.
- The spouse seeking a green card becomes a U.S. citizen.
- If the beneficiary becomes a US citizen, you no longer are required to financial support them under the affidavit of support. This can take 3-10 years to don’t hold your breathe. Especially if they are in poverty they likely will not be able to afford the filing fee to become a US citizen using form N-400.
- The spouse seeking a green card has worked for 40 quarters in the United States.
- If the beneficiary or yourself (if still married) has worked 40 quarters (10 years) on a full-time basis, the obligation will end. This is a long time to hold down a job and it’s doesn’t happen that often. Most people will meet the other requirements first.
- The spouse seeking a green card moves out of the United States permanently.
- If the beneficiary permanently moves out of the US or is deported, you will not be help financially responsible for them anymore. Leaving the US must be permanent and not just a vacation.
Conclusion: What Is Affidavit Of Support?
Hopefully I didn’t scare you off from completing the affidavit of support.
Most of us don’t really think about divorce or separation when we are madly in love and want to bring our fiancé or spouse to the US. But it’s important to understand the legal obligations under the affidavit of support before signing it.
Hopefully, you won’t ever be in a situation when USCIS is filing lawsuit against you but it’s better to be prepared if that day ever comes. It’s so rare that this happens though so you have luck on your side.
The affidavit of support requires that you submit supporting documents to prove your income, assets and job history. It’s not like you can just fill it out and send it in without any proof.
Think of how hard it is to get a mortgage these days, that’s pretty must as much evidence you should be submitting with the affidavit of support. Don’t take it lightly! ????