New Affidavit of Support Policy Simplifies Visa Processing
By Reuben S. Seguritan
January 4, 2017
Last December 28, the Department of State announced that original or wet ink signatures are no longer required in the Affidavit of Support.
Under the new policy which started on January 1, 2017, the National Visa Center (NVC) now accepts photocopies and scanned versions of signed Forms I-864 and associated documents. However, the Affidavit of Support must still be signed and typed names and electronic signatures will not be accepted.
The new policy is part of the ongoing efforts of the government to be responsive to the needs of the customers in immigrant visa processing. This improvement will simplify the submission of financial evidence in support of a visa application, and decrease the rate of visas refused only because the required documents were not available at the time of the visa interview.
NVC will continue to use an assessment letter to address other apparent inconsistencies or errors that NVC finds on a submitted Form I-864. The assessment letter identifies issues that could delay the adjudication of a visa application and encourages the applicant to correct these issues before the interview. If NVC sends you an assessment letter, you do not need to submit a new Form I-864 and/or financial evidence to NVC. Instead, bring a corrected form and any suggested documents to your interview.
An affidavit of support (Form I-864) is required in a family-based visa petition to be submitted by the petitioner to show that the intending immigrant has adequate means of financial support and will not become a public charge, or will not depend on the government for subsistence. A person who is likely to become a public charge is inadmissible or not eligible to become a lawful permanent resident.
The sponsor in an affidavit of support must be a U.S. citizen, national or a lawful permanent resident, at least 18 years old, and domiciled within the United States or a U.S. territory or possession.
The rules require a sponsor to have the means to maintain an annual income equal to at least 125% of the Federal poverty line for the sponsor’s household size. The household size for purposes of Form I-864 includes the immigrant being sponsored as well as all immigrants previously sponsored.
To prove that the sponsor’s income meets 125% of the poverty guidelines, a copy of the latest tax return is usually determinative. However, immigration authorities may request proof that the sponsor has sufficient current income and the sponsor may need to provide current pay stubs and an employer letter.
Petitioners who are self-employed or have a business that shows a loss in their tax returns may still qualify as a sponsor if they have enough income or assets that are readily available or could be converted into cash within one year. Examples of these assets include savings, stocks and bonds, and personal property.
If the sponsor’s income is not enough, assets of the sponsor, the sponsored immigrant, and other household members may be counted. Another option is to find a joint sponsor who meets the financial requirements.
A joint sponsor must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who is at least 18 years old and domiciled in the U.S. or its territories. A joint sponsor does not have to be related to the petitioner or the intending immigrant.
Substitute sponsors are also allowed if the original I-130 petitioner has died and the petition is reinstated for humanitarian reasons. Under a recent law, surviving relatives of an I-130 petitioner may process their green card applications provided they were here in the U.S. at the time of the death of the petitioner and they continue to reside in the U.S.
A substitute sponsor must be related to the intending immigrant in one of the following ways: spouse, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, sibling, child at least 18 years old, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, grandparent, grandchild or legal guardian. Such relative must be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident.
Executing the I-864 affidavit of support should not be taken lightly as it is a legally binding contract once the sponsored alien becomes a lawful permanent resident. It may be enforced against the sponsor and/or joint sponsor by a federal state or local governmental agency or by the sponsored immigrant.