SUPPORT, Form I-864
213A of the Immigration and Nationality Act
WHO SPONSORS AND IS
1. What are affidavits of
support and sponsors?
Every immigrant admitted to
the United States must demonstrate to a Consular or Immigration Officer that he
or she is not inadmissible on public charge grounds. One way to help demonstrate
that an immigrant is not inadmissible is to have a person in the United States,
a sponsor, sign an affidavit of support promising to provide support and
assistance to the immigrant if necessary. Immigrants who have someone sign an
affidavit of support for them are called sponsored immigrants.
2. Which immigrants must
All family-based immigrants,
including immediate relatives, family preference immigrants, and orphans, will
be required to have new legally enforceable affidavits of support (Form I-864)
if they file adjustment of status or immigrant visa applications on or after
December 19, 1997. In addition, employment-based immigrants who are coming to
work for relatives or for companies where relatives of the immigrant own 5
percent or more of the company must have sponsors.
3. How have immigrants'
sponsors' responsibilities changed under the new law?
Affidavits of support (Form
I-864) filed on or after December 19, 1997, are legally enforceable. Sponsors
who fail to support the immigrants they sponsor can be sued by any Federal,
State, or local agency or private entity that provides means-tested benefits, as
well as by the immigrants they sponsored. Most sponsors must now demonstrate
income of at least 125 percent of the Federal poverty level.
4. Who can be a sponsor?
The family member who filed
the visa petition for the immigrant must be a sponsor. In certain circumstances,
additional persons can accept joint legal responsibility with the petitioner as
joint sponsors. Sponsors must also be U.S. citizens, nationals, or lawful
permanent residents; age 18 or over; and live in one of the 50 States,
Washington, DC, or a US territory or possession.
5. What is a joint sponsor?
A joint sponsor is a person
who is not the petitioner for the sponsored immigrant but who meets the
citizenship, residence, and age requirements and who meets the 125 percent
minimum income requirement for his or her household size. Joint sponsors are
permitted when the petitioner cannot meet the income requirements or has died
before all family members have immigrated. Joint sponsors must accept joint
legal responsibility for supporting sponsored immigrant(s) and reimbursing the
cost of any means-tested public benefit used until the sponsored immigrants
naturalize, can be credited with 40 qualifying quarters of work, depart the
United States permanently, or die.
6. Is there a limit on the
number of joint sponsors?
There is no limit on the
number of joint sponsors; however, each joint sponsor must meet the 125 percent
of the poverty line income requirement for their household size. Joint sponsors
are not permitted if the petitioner meets the income requirements unless an
Immigration or Consular Officer requests one.
7. What is the definition of
"relative" for employment based sponsors?
Relative includes the
spouse, adult son or daughter, child, parent, or sibling of the person filing
the I-140 (employment) petition or who has a relative with 5 percent or more
ownership interest in the petitioning company.
8. Can a sponsored immigrant
sponsor other immigrants?
Immigrants who are currently
the beneficiaries of sponsorship obligations may be sponsors. They must meet the
income requirements on their own or obtain a joint sponsor in the same manner
that other petitioner-sponsors qualify. This situation would most likely occur
when permanent residents petition for their spouses or unmarried sons and
daughters under the second preference, since most other petitioners would be
9. Are citizens adopting
immigrant children required to file affidavits of support?
Yes. All persons who
immigrate as immediate relatives, including all orphans, must have affidavits of
support unless they are self-petitioning beneficiaries of approved Forms I-360.
10. Is there a
battered-spouse/child exception to the affidavit of support requirement?
Yes. Prospective immigrants
who have the status of battered spouses or children of U.S. citizens or lawful
permanent residents may immigrate without affidavits of support. To qualify for
this status, aliens must be the beneficiaries of approved I-360 applications
classifying them under this "self-petitioning" category.
11. Is an affidavit of
support required for diversity immigrants (visa lottery applicants) or any other
groups of immigrants?
The new affidavit of support
(Form I-864) may only be used for family-based and certain employment based
immigrants. For other types of immigrants, such as diversity immigrants or
lawful permanent residents returning after long absences from the United States
where there are concerns about inadmissibility on public charge grounds, the
earlier affidavit of support, Form I-134, may be used.
12. Are affidavits of
support required for persons other than immigrants?
Currently, some aliens
entering the United States temporarily, particularly students and parolees, may
be required to have affidavits of support filed on their behalf. These
situations are not affected by the new legally enforceable affidavit of support
requirements. Sponsors of aliens who do not fall within the definition of
Section 213A will continue to use the I-134 affidavit of support. Refugees are
not subject to the new affidavit of support requirement.
13. When does a sponsor's
obligation to support sponsored aliens end?
The sponsorship obligation
continues until the sponsored alien naturalizes, has worked or can be credited
with 40 quarters of work, leaves the United States permanently, or dies.
However, a sponsor or the sponsor's estate remains liable for any support or
requests for repayment of benefits that arose before the support obligation
14. Does divorce nullify the
No, divorce does not nullify
the sponsorship agreement.
15. Can a religious group,
non-governmental organization, venture capitalist, or bail bondsman sponsor an
immigrant as a joint sponsor?
No, only a natural person
can be a sponsor. Religious and other groups usually sponsor refugees who are
not required to have affidavits of support.
16. What if a petitioner
dies before all family members immigrate?
If the petitioner of a
preference immigrant dies after the principal sponsored family member has
immigrated but before a family member qualifying to "follow to join"
the principal immigrant has immigrated, another sponsor, acting and qualifying
as a "joint sponsor," may file an affidavit of support on behalf of
that immigrant. Take the example of a parent who petitions for her married
daughter and her family to immigrate. The daughter and children immigrate
immediately, but the husband chooses to wait for another year. A new affidavit
of support signed by the petitioner would be required for the husband at the
time he immigrates, but this would not be possible if the petitioning parent had
died. In this instance, a joint sponsor would be permitted. In the case of an
immediate relative, since each immediate relative family member is the
beneficiary of a separate visa petition, a new petition and affidavit of support
would be required.
1. What does the requirement
that the sponsor demonstrate the ability to maintain an income at 125 percent of
the poverty level mean?
Sponsors will be judged on
their ability to support the immigrants they are sponsoring at 125 percent of
the poverty level for their household size based on the information they provide
in the affidavit of support and accompanying documentation. This information
must demonstrate that the sponsor and his or her household can reasonably be
expected to maintain an income at or above the level required to provide for
themselves and all immigrants they have sponsored or are sponsoring.
2. Are sponsors required to
have incomes above a certain level?
Sponsors must have household
incomes equal to at least 125 percent of the poverty level for their current
household size, including themselves their families and dependents, any
immigrants previously sponsored on the new affidavit of support, and the
immigrants currently being sponsored. Petitioners who are on active duty in the
U.S. Armed Forces, other than active duty for training, only need to demonstrate
income at 100 percent of the poverty level if they are sponsoring their spouse
3. Does the petitioner have
to file an affidavit of support if he or she cannot meet the income requirements
and there is a joint sponsor?
Yes. The law requires that
the petitioner must be a sponsor and file an affidavit of support, even if he or
she cannot meet the income requirements. The petitioner remains fully liable,
along with the joint sponsor, for any benefits the sponsored immigrant(s) may
use. The joint sponsor must file a separate affidavit of support.
4. Who determines the
The poverty level is
recalculated and published annually for the Office of Management and Budget by
the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS.) The poverty level is
increased by a set dollar amount based on the number of persons in the
household. The poverty level guidelines are the same for the continental 48
States; separate levels are established for Hawaii and Alaska.
5. What is the current
The poverty level announced
in the March 10, 1997, Federal Register for the contiguous United States is
$7,890 for a family unit of one person, with $2,720 added for each additional
person. At the 125 percent level, these amounts are $9,862 and $3,400
respectively. Under the new income requirements, a sponsor would need to have an
annual income of $20,062 to support four persons. In 1996, the poverty level for
Alaska is $9,870 for one person with an increment of $3,400 for each additional
person; the figures for Hawaii are $9,070 and $3,130. Sponsors living in these
States would need to have incomes at least 125 percent of these levels.
6. How is household size
Household size for purposes
of the affidavit of support includes the sponsor and anyone related to the
sponsor by birth, marriage, or adoption living in the sponsor's residence for at
least 6 months, dependents listed on the sponsor's Federal income tax return for
the most recent tax year, immigrants previously sponsored on the new affidavit
of support if the support obligation has not terminated, and the persons
sponsored in the current affidavit of support (the principal immigrant and any
accompanying spouse and/or children.)
7. Does a sponsor need to
show proof of current employment?
A sponsor is not required to
be employed, so long as the sponsor's income from sources other than employment,
or the income of other qualifying persons in the household and/or assets are
sufficient to reach or exceed the poverty line for the sponsor's household size.
However, it is anticipated that in most cases the sponsor will need to be
employed and show proof of employment to meet the income requirements.
8. What types of evidence
can be used to show current employment?
A recent pay stub for the
most recent pay period or a letter from an employer including beginning date of
employment, type of work performed, and wages or salary paid provide the best
evidence of current employment.
9. What types of evidence
can be used to show self-employment?
Self-employed persons can
show evidence such as the self-employment schedules they filed with their income
tax returns or financial records such as bank statements for their business
accounts as proof of self-employment.
10. What if a sponsor is
receiving welfare benefits?
Current use of welfare
benefits by a sponsor or one of the sponsor's family members or dependents will
be considered as a factor in making a determination of eligibility for
sponsoring immigrants. However, receipt of certain non-cash types of benefits
will not disqualify a sponsor.
11. Is only the sponsor's
income included in the determination of whether he or she has sufficient income
to be a sponsor?
Income of anyone related to
the sponsor by birth, marriage, or adoption who has lived in the sponsor's
household for at least 6 months or who is listed on the sponsor's income tax
return for the most recent tax year as a dependent can include their income on
the affidavit of support if they complete and sign a Form I-864A, Contract
Between Sponsor and Household Member. This could include the sponsored
12. What is the Contract
Between Sponsor and Household Member, Form I-864A?
The Contract Between Sponsor
and Household Member, Form I-864A, is a contract between the sponsor and anyone
qualifying as a household member or dependent of the sponsor who agrees to make
his or her income and/or assets available for the support of the immigrants
being sponsored in the affidavit of support. By signing this form, household
members agree to be jointly responsible with the sponsor to reimburse the costs
of any means-tested public benefits used by the sponsored immigrants.
13. If the sponsored
immigrant qualifies as a household member or dependent, do they need to sign the
A sponsored immigrant
household member only needs to submit an I-864A if his or her income will be
used to support his or her accompanying spouse and/or children. If there are no
accompanying family members, the sponsored immigrant does not complete the
I-864A. The sponsored immigrant does not need to complete an I-864A for his or
her assets to be included on the affidavit of support.
14. What portion(s) of
Federal income tax returns should be submitted with the affidavit of support?
The legal definition of a
tax return includes the tax return as well as all supporting supplements,
schedules, attachments, or lists which were filed with the return. Sponsors are
required to submit all of these materials as they were submitted to IRS for
themselves and any other persons whose income is used to qualify.
15. Will the Government
verify the accuracy of information?
The State Department and INS
may verify the accuracy of information provided on, or in support of, the
affidavit of support with employers and financial or other institutions, as
necessary. This may include the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security
16. What if income tax
returns have not been filed for each of the most recent 3 tax years?
A sponsor must include as
many of the income tax returns for the most recent 3 tax years with the
affidavit of support as he or she was required by law to file. If the sponsor
filed fewer tax returns than were required, he or she should contact the
Internal Revenue Service to determine how to file retroactively. If fewer than
three returns were required for reasons such as less than 3 years' residency in
the United States or lack of sufficient income, the sponsor should explain the
reasons on the affidavit of support.
17. How is eligibility of a
person to sponsor immigrants determined?
There is no set formula for
determining whether a person qualifies as a sponsor. The greatest weight will be
placed on earnings from current employment and the total unadjusted income shown
on the most recent three tax returns. In most instances a sponsor who is
employed and demonstrates ability of household members to earn income at or
above 125 percent of the poverty line for the number of persons who will be
supported will be found eligible.
18. Which income line from
the federal tax return is used for income determination?
The line for gross (total)
income on IRS Forms 1040 (line 22 in 1996) and 1040A (line 14 in 1996) is used
to determine income. The line for adjusted gross income is used for persons
filing IRS Form 1040 EZ (line 4 in 1996).
19. What other evidence of
income will be accepted if U.S. Federal income tax returns were not required?
Copies of foreign income tax
returns or other evidence of income from foreign employment can be accepted as
evidence of income in certain circumstances.
20. How are assets used to
demonstrate ability to sponsor an immigrant?
If a sponsor does not have
sufficient income to meet the income requirement for the number of persons
supported, he or she may list assets which are readily convertible to cash
within one year for support of the sponsored immigrant(s). To qualify, the net
worth of these assets needs to be five times the difference between the
sponsor's income and the poverty line for the sponsor's household size.
21. What assets can be used?
Any type of asset can be
used if it is readily convertible to cash within a year. Liquid
assets, such as savings
deposits, stocks, bonds, and certificates of deposit will be viewed most
favorably because they would be most accessible for the support of sponsored
immigrants. Other assets, such as property, may also be acceptable if they can
be sold within a year.
22. What evidence of assets
ownership and the value and location of assets is needed. Additionally,
information on any liens and liabilities relating to these assets must be
provided. For bank accounts, bank statements for the most recent 12 months, or a
letter from the bank stating the date the account was opened, a history of
deposits and withdrawals for the past year, and the current balance are needed.
23. Does a sponsor need to
submit a new affidavit of support if new poverty guidelines are issued before
the case is decided?
Immigrant officers will
begin to use new poverty guidelines at the start of the second month after HHS
publishes them in the Federal Register. As long as the affidavit of support
demonstrates sufficient income to meet the 125 percent income requirement for
the sponsor's household size under the new poverty guidelines, a new affidavit
of support will not normally be required.
1. When will the new
affidavit of support (I-864) be put into use?
The new affidavit of support
will be required for immigrant visa applications filed with U.S. Department of
State Consulates abroad and adjustment of status applications filed with the
Immigration and Naturalization Service as of December 19, 1997.
2. If a person is issued an
immigrant visa before the effective date for the new affidavit of support but
does not immigrate until later, do they need to get a new affidavit of support
No. Implementing regulations
designate Consular Officers interviewing immigrants during the transition period
as Immigration Officers. These immigrants will have had their immigrant visa
interviews before the new affidavit of support requirements become effective and
will not need affidavits of support that meet the new requirements.
3. When are affidavits of
For Consular processing
overseas, applicants for immigrant visas file affidavits of support with
Consular Officers on the date they are interviewed for their immigrant visas.
For adjustment of status cases filed with INS, affidavits of support are filed
on the date the adjustment of status (Form I-485) is filed with the Service,
which will be at least several weeks before the interview is held. The affidavit
of support may not be filed with the immigrant visa petition (Forms I-130 or
I-140) unless the petition is filed concurrently with the adjustment of status
application (Form I-485). The affidavit of support must have been completed and
signed within 6 months of its filing with the Consular Service or INS.
4. When does the new
affidavit of support go into effect for immigrants adjusting status in the
The new affidavit of support
will be required for adjustment of status cases that are filed with INS
beginning on December 19, 1997. Cases that are filed with INS before December
19, 1997, will not be subject to the new requirement even though the interview
will be after December 19. Applicants who file before December 19 will continue
to demonstrate that they are not inadmissible under the public charge grounds
through other means, including the current affidavit of support, Form I-134,
proof of a job offer in the United States, or demonstration of sufficient income
5. Who submits the affidavit
of support to a Consular or INS officer?
The sponsor gives the
completed affidavit of support and all supporting documentation, including any
Forms I-864A completed by household members, to the prospective immigrant to
give the Consular or Immigration Service at the time he or she applies for
immigrant status. Sponsors may submit affidavits of support and supporting
documentation in sealed envelopes to protect their personal information.
6. Are original affidavits
of support required for each family member?
Photocopies of the original
affidavit of support may be used for each accompanying family member as long as
each copy has an original signature and is signed before a Consular or
Immigration Officer or a notary public. Photocopies are only valid for 6 months
from the date of the signature on the original affidavit of support.
7. Does the affidavit of
support need to be witnessed or notarized?
The sponsor must sign the
original and each photocopied affidavit of support before a notary public or an
Immigration or Consular Officer. Household members submitting Form I-864A must
also sign this contract before a notary public or an Immigration or Consular
8. Are "following to
join" relatives included in the affidavit of support?
Family members who will not
immigrate within the 6-month validity period of the affidavit of support should
not be listed on it. Petitioners must submit new affidavits of support for
"following to join" immigrants at the time they immigrate if it is
later than 6 months after they signed the original affidavit of support.
9. Will Consular and
Immigration Officers interview sponsors?
Sponsors will not routinely
be interviewed. An officer may request that the intending immigrant provide
additional information from his or her sponsor at any time during the
adjudication of the case. An immigration officer may request that a sponsor
appear for an interview if he or she believes that an interview is necessary to
make a decision in the case; on rare occasions, a Consular officer could request
an interview if the sponsor is overseas.
10. What are the penalties
for sponsors who make false statements on the affidavit of support?
penalty for false statements (18 USC 1001) or perjury (18 USC 1621) is a term of
imprisonment for up to 5 years, a fine, or both. The criminal penalty for visa
and other document fraud (18
USC 1546) is a term of imprisonment for up to 10 years, a fine, or both. All of
these offenses have a 5-year statute of limitation. Additionally, if fraud is
discovered on an affidavit of support, the intending immigrant's immigrant visa
or adjustment of status application will be denied.
11. What are the change of
address responsibilities that a sponsor has and what is the penalty for not
During the period in which
the affidavit of support is in force, sponsors are required to
report all changes in their
addresses to the Immigration and Naturalization Service on Form I-865, Sponsor's
Change of Address, within 30 days of the change. If a sponsor fails to comply
with this provision, he or she is subject to a penalty ranging from $250 to
$2,000, unless the sponsor knew that the sponsored immigrant had received
means-tested public benefits. In this instance the fine will range from $2,000
to $5,000. The law requires that sponsors also report their changes in address
to the States in which the sponsored immigrants reside. INS will not assess
penalties if sponsors have reported their address changes to INS.
12. Can Form I-134 continue
to be submitted by immigrants?
No. Beginning December 19,
1997, the old Affidavit of Support, Form I-134, can no longer be filed with
applications for immigrant visas or adjustment of status by family or
employment-based immigrants. The form will continue to be used for certain other
groups of aliens such as parolees and nonimmigrants.
13. What is the pilot bond
The new immigration law
requires that INS establish a pilot program in five INS district offices under
which new immigrants would be required to post bonds in addition to the
affidavits of support filed by the petitioners/sponsors. The bonds are to be in
an amount sufficient to cover the cost of certain benefits and would be in force
until immigrants depart, naturalize, or die. Regulations to implement this pilot
bond program are currently being prepared.
DEEMING AND ENFORCEMENT OF
THE AFFIDAVIT OF SUPPORT
1. How will the affidavit of
support be enforced?
Agencies that provide
means-tested public benefits to sponsored immigrants will be able to request
reimbursement from sponsors for the amount of benefits that they provide and sue
them if they do not repay. INS will provide information to benefit providing
agencies on the names and addresses of sponsors; these agencies, not INS,
will be involved in the
enforcement of affidavits of support. If sponsors do not
provide basic support to the
immigrants they bring to the United States, the sponsored immigrants may sue
2. Can INS verify
sponsorship information for benefit agencies?
Yes, INS currently provides
certain benefit agencies with information that sponsors provided on the original
affidavit of support. INS will have automated information on the name and
address of sponsors and will make this information available to benefit
3. What is deeming?
If a sponsored immigrant
applies for a means-tested public benefit, that agency will consider or
"deem" the sponsor's income and resources as well as the income and
resources of the sponsor's current spouse to be available to the sponsored
immigrant in determining the eligibility of that sponsored immigrant for
benefits. Deeming of the sponsor's income usually will make the sponsored
immigrant ineligible for means-tested public benefits.
4. How does the legislation
change deeming requirements?
Under previous law, deeming
of sponsor's income applied only to AFDC, food stamps, and SSI. This process
applied for 3 years for AFDC and food stamps and for 5 years for SSI. The new
law applies deeming requirements to most Federal means-tested programs until
citizenship or until the sponsored immigrant has worked or can be credited with
40 qualifying quarters of work. Once the new affidavit of support is in use,
States may also choose to apply deeming requirements to their State means-tested
public benefit programs.
5. Do agencies have to
implement deeming right away?
The new deeming requirements
apply only to immigrants whose sponsors sign new affidavits of support (Form
I-864). Therefore, no new deeming will occur until December 19, 1997. However,
since most immigrants who enter the United States after August 22, 1996, are
barred from receiving Federal means-tested public benefits for their first 5
years in the United States, there will be no new deeming for Federal
means-tested public benefits for approximately 5 years, with one exception.
Deeming for Federal means-tested programs may take place sooner for aliens who
are veterans, active duty servicemen, or their families since they are not
barred from receiving these benefits. States may choose to deem sponsor income
and resources in determining eligibility for their programs for immigrants
sponsored under the new affidavit of support. Deeming could begin to occur very
soon in those States which do not bar access of immigrants to their means-tested
6. Are there exceptions to
deeming all of the sponsor's income?
Yes. If an agency determines
that a sponsored alien would be unable to obtain food and shelter (taking into
account the alien's income plus any cash, food, housing, or other assistance
supplied by the sponsor or another individual) only the income and resources
that the sponsor and his or her spouse actually provide to the immigrant will be
attributed to the immigrant. The agency must provide INS with the name of
sponsor and sponsored immigrants receiving benefits under this provision. An
agency's decision to grant benefits under this exception does not relieve the
sponsor of the obligation to reimburse the agency for any means-tested public
If sponsored immigrants
demonstrate that they or their children have been battered or subjected to
extreme cruelty by certain persons in the same household, and the battery has
substantial connection to the need for the public benefits, deeming may be
waived if a judge, an administrative law judge, or INS recognize the battery or
7. Do the new deeming
requirements affect immigrants who are already here?
No. The new deeming
requirements apply only to immigrants whose sponsors sign new legally
enforceable affidavits of support (Form I-864) and who apply for immigrant visas
or adjustment of status on or after December 19, 1997.
8. Do the sponsorship and
deeming requirements affect refugees and asylees?
No. Refugees and asylees are
not subject to the public charge and deeming provisions.
MEANS-TESTED PUBLIC BENEFITS
1. What programs are Federal
means-tested public benefits?
Federal means-tested public
benefits include public benefits funded in whole or in part by the Federal
government and that the Federal agency administering these funds has determined
to be a means-tested public benefits. To date, Federal agencies have announced
the following four programs as means-tested public benefits: Food Stamps,
Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Temporary Assistance to Needy
2. What programs are State
means-tested public benefits?
State means-tested benefits
are any public benefit for which no federal funds are provided that a State,
State agency, or political subdivision of a State has determined are State
means-tested public benefits. Each State must determine which, if any, of its
public benefits are
means-tested. We encourage States to publicly announce which programs they
determine are means-tested benefits.
3. How does a potential
sponsor find out if a particular program is a Federal or State means-tested
We encourage Federal and
State agencies to publicly announce which, if any, of their programs are
means-tested public benefits. If a person is uncertain about a particular
benefit, they should check with the benefit-granting agency to determine if the
granting agency considers it to be a means-tested public benefit.
4. What programs does the
law exempt from the definition of means-tested public benefit?
The following programs are
not included as means-tested public benefits: emergency Medicaid; short-term,
non-cash emergency relief; services provided under the National School Lunch and
Child Nutrition Acts; immunizations and testing and treatment for communicable
diseases; student assistance under the Higher Education Act and the Public
Health Service Act; certain forms of foster care or adoption assistance under
the Social Security Act; Head Start programs under the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act; and Job Training Partnership Act programs.
-- INS --
NOTE: For additional information regarding the affidavit of support (including
copies of the new Form I-864) and other INS issues, the public can visit INS'
World Wide Web site at www.ins.usdoj.gov.