Understanding Form I-864

Why does the National Visa Center (NVC) require you to submit an accurate Form I-864?  We hear stories of the frustration experienced by those who have to re- submit the form many times thinking they are following instructions ‘to the letter” only to have it bounce back as ‘incorrect’. What is so difficult about filling out Form I-864? Looks simple but one too many.

Form I-864 is commonly known as the sponsor’s or petitioner’s “Affidavit of Support” (AOS).  Every immigrant entering the US must show that they will never be a ‘public charge’ or a burden to the US government upon becoming a resident of this country and the petitioner/sponsor is supposed to ensure that this does not happen.  Failure to comply with the rules will render the applicant ‘inadmissible’ to enter the United States.  Form I-864 appears uncomplicated but if one has no or little experience completing forms, it becomes a very complex 9-page document.  Government departments involved with immigration strive to simplify the questions, the purpose of which is to determine whether the sponsor complies with the guidelines.  To a layman’s mind, especially in an extended family, choosing a ‘principal sponsor’ is just as difficult as learning why there is a need for a ‘joint sponsor’.  Would you know which of the three (3) AOS forms to use?  First, is the basic Form I-864 to be accomplished by the principal sponsor or the petitioner, who is a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident (LPR).  The principal sponsor may earn a little or a lot or none at all, but the rules require all petitioners to execute an AOS for a certain beneficiary.   For a visa to be issued, the petitioner has to show an annual income of “not less than 125% of the federal poverty line”.   Now, what does that mean?  To find out, NVC points the applicant to websites such as the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for information.  Second, to find out annual income requirement, take a peek into Form I-864P (poverty guidelines) which will somehow provide information.  Unemployment or an income below poverty line does not mean automatic rejection of the immigrant visa application. The rules allow a ‘joint sponsor’ to save the day.   Finding a ‘joint sponsor’ with an annual income that is in compliance with the guidelines might not be an easy task.  It is comforting to know however that a ‘joint sponsor’ need not be related to the petitioner.  These are times when we discover who our real friends are.   Maybe one does not need to look that far. Third, if the petitioner has a spouse or child living in the same household and earning income, Form I-864A (Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member) can be executed where both incomes are combined to comply with the guidelines.  Oftentimes, NVC requests for evidence because there are no supporting documents to prove the responses made in the AOS.   Every submission of Form I-864 or I-864A must come with four (4) documents, namely, the sponsor’s proof of US citizenship or LPR status, letter of employment, pay stubs and the most recent income tax return with a W2 attached.

Just the latest income tax return (ITR) or the last three (3) years?  What should be reported if the sponsor changed jobs and is earning more this year? How do you count the number of dependents already being financially supported then add to that the prospective immigrant?  How do you determine whether their income qualifies? Even if the AOS is finally accepted by the NVC, some doubt might linger in an applicant’s mind if indeed the answers are right.  In retrospect, it is best to consult with an immigration expert because the odds are always against the visa applicant.  If these questions cause the Form I-864 to bounce back, aside from time wasted,  it is common knowledge that “the petition dies with the petitioner”;  no one wishes  that scenario.

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Maria Rita Reyes-Stuby is a licensed attorney in Michigan.  She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law. She specializes in immigration and practices in Las Vegas, Michigan, California and other states.  Bernadette Bretana, a graduate of the Ateneo Law School and Ms. Stuby are licensed attorneys in the Philippines. Please call @702-403-4704 or email her at [email protected] or go to www.mrstubylaw.com for any questions on this article.

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