Form I-864 Explained: Understanding Your Responsibilities Under USCIS’s Affidavit of Support

Are you seeking to financially sponsor someone who wants to immigrate to the United States?

If so, you will be interested to know that all immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens and individuals falling in the family-based preference categories, are required to submit the Form I-864 Affidavit of Support to obtain permanent residency in the United States.

The form is signed by the U.S. Citizen or legal permanent resident petitioning for the intending immigrant to show they will have the adequate means of financial support while in the U.S. and will not seek financial benefits from the U.S. government.

By signing the affidavit of support, you are accepting financial responsibility for the applicant seeking to immigrate to the United States.

In this video, we share with you everything you need to know regarding your responsibilities and obligations as a financial sponsor of the affidavit of support.


Who Signs the I-864 Affidavit of Support

The I-864 Affidavit of Support must be completed and signed by the U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident who is petitioning for the intending immigrant (also known as the primary sponsor).

The affidavit is essentially a contract between the petitioner and U.S. government, which establishes that the petitioner has enough income or assets to financially support the intending immigrant. Its main purpose is to ensure the alien does not become a public charge on the U.S. government.

To qualify as a sponsor of the affidavit of support, you must be:

  • A U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)
  • At least 18 years of age
  • Have a domicile in the United States and
  • Demonstrate that your income is at least 125 percent of the current Federal Poverty Guidelines for your household size (if you are on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces then you only need to have an income of 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines).

The Federal Poverty Guidelines can be found on the USCIS website here.

What is my Household Size?

Your household size includes yourself and the following individuals, no matter where they live:

  • any spouse
  • any dependent children under 21 years of age
  • any other dependents listed on your most recent Federal income tax return
  • all persons being sponsored in the affidavit of support (including the alien) and
  • any immigrants previously sponsored by you that you are still obligated to support

What if I do not meet the income requirement for my household size?

If you cannot meet the income requirement for your household size based on the Federal Poverty Guidelines, you may use the value of your assets, the assets of any household member who has signed Form I-864A, or the assets of the intending immigrant to qualify.

If you do not have assets, then the intending immigrant must have a joint sponsor (also known as a secondary sponsor), whose income and/or assets equal at least 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines according to their household size.

What are my Obligations as a Sponsor?

You must maintain an income equal to at least 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines according to your household size.

If your income falls below this requirement, you must be able to provide financial assistance to the intending immigrant so that they do not become a public charge on the U.S. government.

If you fail to provide financial assistance as required by law, the immigrant can sue you (the sponsor) for failing to provide financial support.

How Long Does My Obligation as a Sponsor Continue?

Your obligation to support the immigrant you are sponsoring in the Affidavit of Support will continue until they become a U.S. citizen or can be credited with 40 qualifying quarters of work in the United States.

40 qualifying quarters of work (credits) generally equates to approximately 10 years of work. In certain cases, the work of a spouse or parent adds qualifying quarters.

The obligation also ends if you or the sponsored immigrant dies or if the sponsored immigrant ceases to be a lawful permanent resident (such as abandonment of status).

What happens if I sponsored my spouse, but have since filed for divorce?

Primary sponsors should be aware that divorce does not end the sponsorship obligation. For example, if you signed the affidavit of support to sponsor your foreign spouse in the United States, your obligations will continue even in the event of divorce unless one of the above conditions occur terminating those obligations.

What happens if I sponsored an immigrant, but have since filed for bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy does not relieve primary or secondary sponsors of their financial obligations under the affidavit of support.

What happens if the sponsored immigrant seeks financial assistance from the U.S. government?

If the immigrant sponsored in the affidavit of support receives one of the designated Federal, state or local means-tested public benefits listed below, the agency providing the benefit may request that you (the sponsor) repay the cost of those benefits. That agency can sue you if the cost of the benefits provided is not repaid.

Not all benefits are considered as means-tested public benefits.

What are means-tested benefits?

A means-tested benefit is a public benefit where the agency granting the benefit considers the applicant’s income and resources for purposes of determining eligibility.

Federal Means-Tested Public Benefits

Federal means-tested public benefits include food stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

State Means-Tested Public Benefits
Each state determines which, if any, of its public benefits are means-tested. You can check with the state public assistance office for more information regarding which state benefits are means-tested.

Programs Not Included

The following federal and state programs are not included as means-tested 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;
  • Means-tested programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; and
  • Job Training Partnership Act programs.


The bottom line is that the Form I-864 Affidavit of Support is a legally binding contract with the U.S. government. Before sponsoring an immigrant in the United States, you must thoroughly read the application, its instructions, and understand your responsibilities and obligations as a sponsor.

Failure to do so can carry serious consequences including an obligation to repay a state or federal agency for the cost of benefits conferred on the sponsored immigrant.

To learn more about the affidavit of support, please click here.

Contact Us. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-569-1768 or call 619-819-9204.

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