Form I-864, or an Affidavit of Support, is required as part of a foreign national’s application for permanent residence in the United States. The Affidavit of Support is actually a contract between a visa applicant and the U.S. government. The goal is to ensure that the visa applicant has outside financial support after immigrating to the United States and is, therefore, unlikely to rely on government assistance.
The form requires that a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident agrees to support the beneficiary at 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines in effect at the time the Affidavit of Support is filed. The I-864 has been used successfully in divorce cases as evidence that one spouse has agreed to financial obligations that outlive the divorce. Indeed, the financial support obligations under the I-864 only terminate under a narrow set of circumstances, such as if the sponsored immigrant becomes a citizen, leaves the United States or dies.
Some important requirements regarding the Affidavit of Support include:
- This form is required for applicants for family-based immigrant visas and certain employment-based ones.
- A sponsor must be at least 18-years-old, be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, and have domicile in the United States.
- If sponsors are living abroad, they must prove that they have a principal residence in the United States and intend to maintain it indefinitely.
- A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who is not domiciled in the United States cannot be a sponsor.
- The notion of domicile is a complex one. If a sponsor is living abroad, he or she must demonstrate the following things to be considered domiciled in the United States:
- The sponsor left the United States for a limited, and not an indefinite, period of time.
- The sponsor intended to maintain a domicile in the United States.
- The sponsor has continued ties to the United States.
At the time of an applicant’s visa interview, the consular officer looks to other factors affecting the financial situation of the sponsor and the visa applicant, in addition to the I-864. Such factors include age, health, skills and overall financial resources. The officer wants to ensure that an immigrant does not become reliant on government assistance.