Understanding the Joint Sponsorship Process: Form I-864 Explained

Who is a joint sponsor?

A joint sponsor is a person who agrees to financially support an immigrant in the United States when the immigrant is applying for a visa or seeking to adjust their status to become a lawful permanent resident (green card holder). This is often required by the U.S. government to ensure that the immigrant will not become a public charge and will have adequate financial support while in the United States.

Joint sponsors are typically used in family-based immigration cases, such as when a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident petitioner does not meet the income requirements set by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to sponsor their relative. In such cases, a joint sponsor, who must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident themselves, steps in to provide financial support and takes legal responsibility for the immigrant.

The joint sponsor must meet specific income and sponsorship requirements, including demonstrating the ability to financially support both their own household and the immigrant they are sponsoring. They will be required to fill out an affidavit of support (Form I-864) and provide documentation of their income and financial stability to prove their eligibility as a sponsor.

Joint sponsor eligibility

To be eligible to serve as a joint sponsor for an immigrant in the United States, you must meet certain requirements and demonstrate your ability to financially support the immigrant. Here are the key eligibility criteria for a joint sponsor:

  • Citizenship or Permanent Residency: You must be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) to be eligible to serve as a joint sponsor.
  • Age: You must be at least 18 years old to be a joint sponsor.
  • Domicile in the United States: You must be living in the United States as your primary residence.
  • Sufficient Income: You need to demonstrate that your income meets the minimum financial requirements to support both your own household and the immigrant you are sponsoring. The specific income thresholds can vary based on factors such as your household size and location. To determine the income requirements, you should refer to the USCIS guidelines and use the most recent poverty guidelines for your household size.
  • Legal Obligation: By becoming a joint sponsor, you are legally obligated to provide financial support for the immigrant. This obligation continues until the immigrant either becomes a U.S. citizen, has worked in the United States for 40 qualifying quarters (usually about 10 years), leaves the United States permanently, or dies.
  • Filing an Affidavit of Support: You will be required to complete and submit an affidavit of support (Form I-864) to the U.S. government, along with supporting documentation of your income and financial stability. This form is a legally binding contract between you and the U.S. government, as well as between you and the immigrant, affirming your commitment to provide financial support.
  • Proof of Relationship: You should have a qualifying relationship with the immigrant you are sponsoring. Typically, joint sponsors are used in family-based immigration cases, so you may need to demonstrate your relationship, such as being a relative (e.g., a sibling, cousin, uncle, or aunt) of the immigrant.

Joint sponsor checklist of required documents

When serving as a joint sponsor for an immigrant in the United States, you will need to provide a range of documents to demonstrate your eligibility and financial ability to support the immigrant. While the specific documents required may vary based on the circumstances and the type of visa or immigration benefit being sought, here is Form I-864 checklist of common documents you may need to submit:

  • Affidavit of Support (Form I-864): This is the primary document that officially establishes your commitment to financially support the immigrant. You will need to complete and sign this form.
  • Proof of U.S. Citizenship or Permanent Residency: Depending on your status, you will need to provide proof of U.S. citizenship (e.g., birth certificate, passport, or certificate of naturalization) or proof of permanent residency (e.g., copy of your green card).
  • Federal Income Tax Returns: Typically, you will need to provide copies of your federal income tax returns for the most recent tax year. This includes all pages and schedules, such as Form 1040 and supporting documents (W-2s, 1099s, etc.).
  • Proof of Current Employment: You should provide documents to demonstrate your current employment status, such as a letter from your employer, recent pay stubs, or a job offer letter if you recently started a new job.
  • IRS Transcript: Obtaining an IRS transcript can provide official verification of your income and tax history. You can request this document from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
  • Financial Statements: Bank statements and other financial documents may be required to show your financial stability. This can include savings account statements, investment account statements, and statements for other assets.
  • Letter of Explanation: In some cases, you may be required to provide a letter explaining your financial situation, especially if there are any unusual or complex financial circumstances.
  • Proof of Relationship: If you are not an immediate family member of the immigrant, you may need to provide documents to establish your relationship, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, or other family records.
  • Proof of Domicile: You will need to provide evidence that you are currently residing in the United States as your primary residence. This can include utility bills, a lease agreement, or a mortgage statement.
  • Supporting Affidavit from a Co-Sponsor: If you are not the sole joint sponsor and are part of a group of sponsors, each sponsor may need to provide their own affidavit of support (Form I-864) and supporting documentation.
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