The United States government requires every individual seeking permanent residence status through a relative to be sponsored. There are a number of financial requirements that the sponsor must satisfy, and it’s important for sponsors to be well-informed of what they are committing to before signing an Affidavit of Support. In this blog post, we will examine a common question that we are asked:
How much money do I need to sponsor my spouse or relative for a U.S. green card?
The U.S. government uses Household Size Poverty Guidelines (“HHS Poverty Guidelines”) to establish the minimum amount of income that a sponsor must earn annually in order to sponsor someone for permanent residence. There is one HHS Poverty Guideline table for the 48 contiguous states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. There are separate HHS Poverty Guideline tables that apply to Alaska and Hawaii.
Regardless of the state or territory, each table is calculated based on the number of individuals in the household (including the sponsor themselves). It is a sliding scale that increases with each additional person living in the household. Sponsors who are on active duty in the U.S. armed forces who are petitioning for their spouse or child are only required to meet 100% of the amount listed in the HHS Poverty Guidelines for their household size. For everyone else, 125% of the HHS Poverty Guidelines must be met in order to be a sponsor.
Who is eligible to be a sponsor?
Financial sponsors must be at least 18 years old, reside in the United States, and be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
Who should I include as a household member calculating my household size?
Sponsors are required to include the following persons in their household:
- Their spouse
- Any children by birth, marriage, or adoption living in the sponsor’s residence
- Any other individual claimed as a dependent on the sponsor’s tax return for the most recent year, regardless of whether they are related to the sponsor or have the same address as the sponsor
- The principal visa applicant (i.e. the person you are sponsoring)
- Any derivative applicant who plans to immigrate within 6 months
- Any other person in the U.S. whom the sponsor is supporting on a different Form I-864, if the obligation has not terminated
- Any nondependent siblings, parents, or adult children who reside in the sponsor’s household who are not dependents, if they complete a Form I-864.
What if my income is too low?
Sometimes, the sponsor’s income may fall below the HHS Poverty Guidelines for their applicable household size. When this is the case, there are options available.
First, the sponsor is permitted to submit the value of assets to make up the difference between their income and their applicable HHS threshold. When looking at income levels, the reviewing officer will first consider the sponsor’s employment income. Personal assets and/or the income and assets of household members who signed the Form I-864A are totalled next. The government does require that evidence of these assets be included in the application. Assets must be convertible to cash within one year, and converting the asset to cash must not create considerable hardship or financial loss to the sponsor and/or their family. Examples of assets include:
- Stock and bonds
- Property (including the value of the primary residence)
- Automobiles (if there is more than one and the primary automobile is not included as an asset)
- Assets owned by the person being sponsored that are outside of the U.S.
- NOTE: Assets must be legally allowed to leave the country, AND the net value of assets in this case must be at least five times the difference between the sponsor’s income and 125% of the poverty guideline for the sponsor’s household size.
Second, the sponsor is permitted to find a “joint sponsor” who will agree to also financially support the individual being sponsored. This is easier said than done because of the financial liability attached to being a sponsor. Joint sponsors are equally responsible for financially supporting the green card holder, and have to maintain their income at 125% of HHS Poverty Guidelines levels until the sponsorship ends. They are also responsible for reimbursing the government should the green card holder use public benefits.
Joint sponsors are allowed to use the income of other members of their own household in order to meet the minimum income threshold for the applicable household size.
Third, the sponsor is permitted to use the income of another household member in order to meet the minimum income threshold. This might include the income of a spouse, adult child, or parents who live with you. In order for these individuals to qualify as household members for the purpose of combining household income, they must have been claimed as a dependent on the sponsor’s most recent tax return or lived with them for the past 6 months.
Can a valid job offer for the visa applicant be included in the sponsor’s income?
No, U.S. immigration laws do not recognize offers of employment as substitutes for a Form I-864. A job offer may be helpful for the visa interview, as it demonstrates that the individual is unlikely to become a public charge, but it does not meet the Form I-864 requirement.
Once we meet the minimum income requirements, will our application be approved?
Not necessarily. As much as possible, the government wants to ensure that new immigrants do not become public charges. A public charge is someone who is primarily dependent on the U.S. government for subsistence (financial support). Therefore, consular officers will look at other factors that impact the financial situation and stability of both the sponsor and the person they are sponsoring. These factors include age, health, education, skills, financial resources, and family status. This is part of the reason why it's so important to prepare for your visa interview with a qualified attorney.
Considering applying for a green card for your family member? Contact Sisu Legal to schedule a strategy session with our lawyers! We also encourage you to check our the following resources: