Form I-864, Affidavit of Support for Your Marriage Based Green Card
Do you need money to get married? Having enough money to start your new life would be great but money isn't a requirement to getting married, right? Well, in a marriage-based immigration case, though, money matters.
In all marriage-based immigration cases, you are required to submit Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. This is essentially your promise to the U.S. government that once your spouse becomes a legal permanent resident in the U.S., he/she will not become a public discharge.
In other words, you are promising to provide minimal financial support so that the government wouldn't have to support your spouse for basic needs in life. This does not mean that your spouse would not be entitled to some public benefits. This means that he/she will not be entitled to certain benefits called, "means-tested benefits." The explanation of means-tested benefits is beyond the scope of this blog post. Each state has different programs and different names for similar benefits. You can check out a general guideline in this article.
The minimum income required can be found in I-864P. The minimum requirement depends on the size of the household. For example, if the U.S. citizen spouse doesn't have any other dependents on his/her income tax return, then the household size would be two: one for the U.S. citizen spouse and the foreign spouse that he/she is marrying. In this case, the minimum income requirement is $20,025 (assuming that the U.S. citizen spouse is not in the U.S. army). This guideline gets updated every year, so it's important that you use the most current guideline.
The petitioner who is the U.S. citizen spouse must submit Form I-864 regardless of whether or not he/she filed tax returns. Even if he/she is a student and/or unemployed, Form I-864 is still required with an explanation as to why he/she didn't file tax returns. If the petitioner filed taxes, then yes, you must disclose your tax returns unlike the President of the United States of America.
If the petitioner does not have sufficient income or has not filed tax returns at all, then you can have a Joint Sponsor for your case. The Joint Sponsor must fill out Form I-864 and the Joint Sponsor is promising that he/she will be financially responsible for the basic needs of the foreign spouse once she becomes a legal permanent resident. The responsibility of the sponsor (whether the sponsor is the petitioning sponsor or a Joint Sponsor), lasts five years for certain benefits and until the legal permanent resident becomes a U.S. citizen for certain other benefits. Theoretically, if the legal permanent resident ends up receiving certain public benefits that he/she is not entitled to, the government can request for reimbursement from the sponsor. Personally, in almost 20 years of my practice, I have never seen this, though.
So, what are the required documents for the sponsor/petitioner or the Joint Sponsor?
It is very important that Form I-864 is filled out correctly and submitted with the requisite evidence. I've seen many cases being delayed because the couple failed to fill out this form correctly and failed to submit the required documents. For a complete list of required evidence, please click here for FREE I-864 Checklist.
Remember that each case is different and you may have to prove the sufficiency of income through other means than your tax returns.
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