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The Immigrant Visa Process

I-864 Affidavit of Support (FAQs)

Please expand the below topics for information and Frequently Asked Questions.

The National Visa Center’s (NVC) role

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What is NVC's role?

NVC reviews submitted Affidavit of Support forms for completeness. If a form is not complete, NVC will send a “checklist letter” to the petitioner/financial sponsor explaining what is wrong and asking them to correct and re-submit the form to NVC. When NVC accepts a corrected Form I-864, I-864EZ, I-864W or I-864A, NVC sends it with the immigrant visa petition to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the applicant will apply for a visa.

NVC uses an “assessment letter” to address smaller apparent inconsistencies 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.

Does the NVC review Affidavit of Support forms for petitions filed at a post (embassy or consulate) abroad?

No, the NVC reviews only Affidavit of Support forms for petitions filed in the United States with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

If the consular officer says the applicant needs a joint sponsor, does the joint sponsor send the I-864 to the NVC for review?

No. If a consular officer during the visa interview asks for a joint sponsor, the joint sponsor must send the completed I-864 directly to the applicant. The applicant will submit the I-864 to the consular officer for review.

Filling Out the Forms

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Where do I find instructions?

Each of the Affidavit of Support Forms have step-by-step instructions for completion by the financial sponsor or joint sponsor. The instructions explain which forms are required and how to properly complete them. It is important to carefully follow the instructions included with each form. In addition to this guidance, online tips are available for completing all of these forms: the I-864, I-864A, I-864EZ, and I-864W.

We recommend completing Affidavit of Support forms on a computer or typewriter, with answers typed in CAPITAL letters. After the form is completed, print it and submit the signed form to NVC along with the sponsor’s supporting evidence of income. Please view our “Submit Documents to NVC” page online for instructions on sending your Affidavit of Support to NVC. Remember you must submit all pages of the Form I-864 even if they are blank.

Where can I get more information?

If you need more information on the I-864 Affidavit of Support, please see 9 FAM 504.4-3, 9 FAM 302.8, and Sections 212(a)(4) and 213A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The complete FAM and INA are available by visiting FOIA on the Department of State website. Also see How Do I File an Affidavit of Support for a Relative? at www.uscis.gov.

How Does the Sponsor Get the Forms and Get Started?

After a visa applicant submits his or her Form DS-260 Immigration Visa Application Form online, the next step is to gather all of the documents required and submit them to NVC. This includes the Affidavit of Support and supporting financial evidence. The petitioner and any other financial sponsors can download the forms at www.uscis.gov, and can use the chart on our “Collect Financial Documents” page to learn which forms are required.

Notice: In order to download forms, you must have a recent version of Adobe Reader installed on your computer. If you do not have Adobe Reader, please visit http://www.adobe.com/. There is no charge to download Adobe Reader. You may receive a “file corrupted” error message if you are using an older version of Adobe Reader.

Who signs the forms and where are they submitted?

The petitioner/financial sponsor must complete and sign the appropriate Affidavit of Support form. Incomplete forms, including those missing pages, will not be accepted. The completed forms and supporting documents must be sent to NVC with the visa applicant’s civil documents. See our “Submit Documents to NVC” page online for instructions on how to send NVC your Affidavit of Support form.

Household Size

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How do I calculate my household size?

The Form I-864 asks for the financial sponsor’s household size. When calculating their household size, sponsors must include:

  • Their spouse,
  • Any unmarried children under 21 (unless these children have reached majority under the law of their place of domicile),
  • Anyone else claimed as a dependent on the sponsor's tax return,
  • The principal visa applicant,
  • Any derivative applicants who plan to immigrate within six months, and
  • Any other people in the United States whom the sponsor is supporting on a different Form I-864.

A sponsor does not have to include people on other I-864s who have not yet immigrated to the United States. 

Fees

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Is There a Fee for the Affidavit of Support Forms?

Yes, there is a $120 fee per case for reviewing the Affidavit of Support (Forms I-864, I-864A, I-864W and/or I-864EZ) when the form(s) is (are) filed in the United States. There is only one fee charged, even if there are multiple financial sponsors associated with a single case. This fee is paid online at ceac.state.gov. The petitioner will need the NVC case number and Invoice Identification Number to log onto this site. See Immigrant Services - Other Fees.

When Is the I-864 Processing Fee Paid?

When your immigrant visa case is ready to begin processing at NVC, NVC will send an Affidavit of Support processing fee invoice and payment instructions to your attorney (if applicable) or petitioner. This invoice will include an Invoice Identification Number, which is needed to pay the fee online at ceac.state.gov.

When Does NVC Send Instructions About the Affidavit of Support (Forms I-864, I-864W, I-864EZ and/or I-864A)?

The most complete information about Affidavits of Support is found on this website. Please review our “Collect Financial Documents” page for a chart that describes which form is required, and the types of supporting financial evidence that your petitioner and other financial sponsors should submit to NVC.

If your petitioner pays the Affidavit of Support fee online, your petitioner can print an Affidavit of Support Document Cover Sheet. The Document Cover Sheet includes Affidavit of Support Instructions.

If your petitioner pays the Affidavit of Support fee using the Alternate Payment Method, your petitioner will receive instructions from NVC after the fees are paid.

Is There a Fee to Review the Affidavit of Support at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate Abroad?

No, when the Form I-130 petition and subsequent Affidavit of Support (AOS) form is filed outside the United States, a fee is not charged.

Eligibility to Submit an Affidavit of Support

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Who Can Be a Financial Sponsor?

A financial sponsor, including a petitioner, must be at least 18 years old and either a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (LPR). The sponsor must also have a domicile (residence) in the United States.

Income Requirements and Poverty Guidelines

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What are Poverty Guidelines?

Petitioners must meet a minimum income level, called the Federal Poverty Guidelines, in order to financially sponsor a visa applicant. The Poverty Guidelines in effect on the filing date of an Affidavit of Support are used to determine whether the income requirement is met. For example, the effective date of the 2016 Poverty Guidelines was March 1, 2016. So, an I-864 filed on February 1, 2016, was subject to the 2015 Poverty Guidelines. You can find these guidelines on USCIS’s website.

What if my petitioner doesn’t have the enough income?

Petitioners who cannot meet this level have two choices: 1) find a “joint sponsor” who will agree to also financially support the visa applicant, or 2) use the income of a household member to meet the Poverty Guidelines. These additional financial sponsors also have to submit an Affidavit of Support, proof of their income, and proof of their legal status in the United States.

Remember:  Even if a petitioner finds a joint sponsor or uses the income of a household member to financially sponsor a visa applicant, that petitioner must still submit an Affidavit of Support. 

Is a sufficient Form I-864 the only consideration for meeting any public charge issues at the time of the visa interview?

No, consular officers also look at other public charge factors affecting the financial situation of both the financial sponsor(s) and the applicant. Age, health, education, skills, financial resources and family status of the applicant and the sponsor are factors. Consular officers will verify to the extent possible that applicants have adequate financial support to prevent them becoming a public charge in the United States. Public charge means that someone is primarily dependent on the U.S. government for subsistence.

If the poverty guidelines change between the time the petitioner signed the Affidavit of Support and the issuance of an immigrant visa, must the petitioner/sponsor and joint sponsor, if required, submit a new Form I-864?

No, the Form I-864 remains valid indefinitely unless evidence of failure to meet the poverty guidelines in effect on the date of I-864 filing arises. The consular officer will determine whether the income claimed by the sponsor and documented with financial evidence meets the poverty guidelines in effect at the time the I-864 was filed. If the income claimed does not meet the poverty guidelines, then the consular officer may request that the sponsor submit current year income information.

Can a credible offer of employment for the visa applicant replace or supplement an insufficient Affidavit of Support?

No, the law does not recognize offers of employment in place of the Form I-864. A job offer may show ability of the applicant to overcome ineligibility as a public charge, but does not meet any I-864 requirement.

Proof of Employment Income

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How does a financial sponsor show proof of income?

Petitioners must submit a federal tax transcript from the most recent tax year as proof of income. They must do this even if there is a joint sponsor or household member income being used to meet the Federal Poverty Guidelines. The only exception is if the petitioner was legally exempt from filing federal income taxes, in which case he or she must submit a statement indicating why they were exempt from filing. Please submit an IRS tax transcript rather than a copy of your tax return; you can find information on getting a tax transcript on the IRS’s website.

Do all financial sponsors have to submit a Form W-2?

A Form W-2 Wage and Tax Statement is provided to employees each tax year by employers in the United States, and shows the amount of money earned by an employee. Sponsors who claim to meet the Poverty Guidelines based solely on income earned at work and who submit a tax return (Form-1040) – not an IRS tax transcript – as proof of income must also submit that year’s Form W-2, if he or she was issued one. Sponsors who submit an IRS tax transcript must submit a Form W-2 only if they filed taxes under the "married filing jointly" category – and if they were issued a W-2.

Use of Assets to Meet Income Requirements

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Use of Assests

If a sponsor's income does not meet the minimum Federal Poverty Guidelines, he or she can submit the value of assets to make up the difference unless the sponsor is submitting a Form I-864EZ. When looking at income levels, the consular officer will look at the sponsor's employment income first. Personal assets and/or the income and assets of household members who have signed an I-864A are totaled next. Usually the sponsor must present evidence of location, ownership and value including liens and liabilities for each asset listed.

What Cash Value of Assets is Needed?

The total net value of assets, less liens and liabilities against them, must equal five times the difference between the sponsor's income and 125% of the poverty level for the household size.

Sponsors of spouses and children of U.S. citizens must only prove assets valued at three times the difference between the poverty guidelines and actual household income.

Sponsors of orphans who will acquire citizenship after admission to the United States must only prove assets equal to the difference between the poverty guidelines and actual household income.

What can be used as assets?

Financial sponsors can only include assets that are convertible into cash within one year and without considerable hardship or financial loss to the sponsor and his/her family. Examples of assets easily convertible to cash are savings, stocks, bonds and property. Sponsors may include the value of their home. They may not include the value of their automobile, unless they can show they have more than one and the primary automobile is not included as an asset. 

Can the immigrant visa applicant count assets that he or she owns that are outside the United States, such as real estate or personal property?

Yes, under the following conditions:

  • The assets must be convertible to cash within 12 months.
  • The applicant must show that the assets can be removed from the country where they are located. Many countries have limits on cash or liquid assets that can removed from the country.
  • The net value of assets must be at least five times the difference between the sponsor's income and 125 percent of the poverty guideline for the household size.

The visa applicant needs to file a Form I-864A to have his or her assets included in the minimum income level calculations.

Can free housing be counted as income?

Yes, financial sponsors receiving housing and other benefits in place of salary may count those benefits as income. The sponsor may count both taxable and non-taxable income (such as housing allowance). The sponsor must prove the nature and amount of non-taxable income. Evidence of such income can be a Form W-2 (such as Box 13 for military allowances) or Form 1099.

 

What does NVC do with proof of assets submitted with an Affidavit of Support?

If you submit evidence of assets to NVC, they will be included in your case file and only reviewed during your visa interview overseas. NVC will not review these documents.

Domicile

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What does domicile mean?

Domicile is a complex concept and must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. To qualify as a financial sponsor, a petitioner residing abroad must have a principal residence in the United States and intend to maintain it indefinitely. Lawful permanent resident (LPR) sponsors must show they are maintaining their LPR status.

Many U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents reside outside the United States on a temporary basis. "Temporary" may cover an extended period of residence abroad. The sponsor living abroad must establish the following in order to be considered domiciled in the United States:

  • He/she left the United States for a limited and not indefinite period of time,
  • He/she intended to maintain a domicile in the United States, and
  • He/she has evidence of continued ties to the United States.

If not submitted to NVC along with the Affidavit of Support form, the petitioner will need to provide the visa applicant with evidence of his or her domicile. The visa applicant will need to bring that evidence to the visa interview for the consular officer to review.

Can a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) petitioner who is not domiciled (living) in the United States be a financial sponsor?

No, U.S. law requires that sponsors be domiciled (live) in any of the United States, the District of Columbia, or any territory or possession of the United States.

If the petitioner does not have a domicile in the United States, can a joint sponsor file an I-864?

No, the petitioner must meet all the requirements to be a sponsor (age, domicile and citizenship), except those related to income, before there can be a joint sponsor.

What kinds of employment abroad can be counted as U.S. domicile?
  • Employment temporarily stationed abroad with the U.S. government.
  • Employment temporarily stationed abroad with a U.S. institution of research recognized by the Attorney General.
  • Employment temporarily stationed abroad with a U.S. firm or corporation or its subsidiary engaged in whole or in part in the development of foreign trade and commerce with the United States.
  • Employment temporarily stationed abroad with a public international organization in which the United States participates by treaty or statute.
  • Employment temporarily stationed abroad with a religious denomination/group having a genuine organization within the United States.
  • Employment temporarily stationed abroad as a missionary by a religious denomination/group or by an interdenominational mission organization within the United States.

There may be other circumstances in which a sponsor can show that his or her presence abroad is of a temporary nature, and the sponsor has a domicile in the United States. The consular officer must be satisfied that the financial sponsor has not given up his/her domicile in the United States and established a domicile abroad.

Enter Accordion TitleHow can a financial sponsor establish a domicile?

When a sponsor has clearly not maintained a domicile in the United States, he/she must re-establish a U.S. domicile to be a sponsor. The aspiring sponsor may take steps, including the examples given below, to show that the United States is his/her principal place of residence:

  • Find employment in the United States
  • Secure a residence in the United States
  • Register children in U.S. schools
  • Relinquish residence abroad
  • Other evidence of a U.S. residence

If the sponsor establishes U.S. domicile, he or she must return to the United States to live before the sponsored immigrant may enter the United States. The sponsored immigrant must enter the United States with or after the sponsor.

Accompanying Family Members

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Does each accompanying family member need separate documents if they are traveling with the principal applicant?

No. However, dependents immigrating with the principal applicant must have a photocopy of the principal applicant's Form I-864, and I-864A if applicable. 

Do family members following to join the principal applicant need separate Affidavits of Support and supporting documents?

Family members who immigrate later (follow-to-join) must have one complete photocopied set of the principal applicant's I-864 and supporting documents. 

What do family members need if they have separate visa petitions?

Each family member with a separate visa petition must submit a signed Form I-864 with supporting documents from the petitioner/sponsor and Form I-864As with supporting documents from the joint sponsor(s) if applicable.

Is one joint sponsor allowed to sponsor only some of the applicants while the other applicants are sponsored by another joint sponsor on the same petition?

Yes, but only under certain circumstances. Two joint sponsors can be used per family unit applying to immigrate under the same petition. If two joint sponsors are used, each joint sponsor is responsible only for the intending immigrant(s) listed on the joint sponsor’s Form I-864. Every joint sponsor must meet the minimum income requirement, citizenship, residence and age requirements.

Means-Test Public Benefits

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What are public benefits?

Federal means-tested public benefits are the following:

  • Food stamps
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Medicaid
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • State Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
Can the visa applicant use government assistance or public benefits?

If the sponsored immigrant uses federal means-tested public benefits, the financial sponsor must repay the cost of the benefits.

What assistance programs are not considered means-tested public benefit programs?

The following types of assistance are not considered means-tested public benefits and do not have to be repaid:

  • Emergency Medicaid
  • School lunches
  • Immunizations and treatment for communicable diseases
  • Student assistance to attend colleges and institutions of higher learning
  • Some kinds of foster care or adoption assistance
  • Job-training programs
  • Head Start
  • Short-term, non-cash emergency relief

Death of Sponsor

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If the sponsor dies after the principal applicant has immigrated to the United States but before other qualified family members have immigrated, can another sponsor be named?

Yes, if the petitioner or primary sponsor dies before all qualified family members have immigrated, a new sponsor may submit a Form I-864 to become the primary sponsor regardless of the status of the deceased petitioner's estate.

Expiration of the I-864

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Will the I-864 I submitted expire if my relative's interview is delayed for any reason?

No, the validity of the Form I-864, I-864 EZ, or I-864A is considered indefinite beginning from the date the sponsor signs it.

 

Who's Involved

National Visa Center

After petition approval, the National Visa Center (NVC) handles processing for certain kinds of documents, sending them onward to U.S. Embassies & Consulates.

When and how to Contact NVC

More Information