Income Requirements for Marriage and Fiancé Visas
One of the many criteria for a fiancé-marriage visa is the income requirement. The sponsor (petitioner) must meet certain standards set forth by the Poverty Guidelines in order to obtain a visa for their fiancé or spouse.
For a fiancé visa, the sponsor must have an income of 100% according to the poverty guidelines. If the visa-holder wishes to become a permanent resident, their sponsor must reach 125% on the poverty guidelines to be eligible for a green card.
In practice, the U.S. citizen petitioning for their fiancé must have an income at, or in excess of, 125% of the federal Poverty Guidelines even though meeting 100% of the poverty guidelines is the technical rule for nonimmigrant fiancé visas.
So what are the poverty guidelines?
The Poverty Guidelines can be viewed in a chart produced and updated several times a year by the Department of Health and Human Services. The guidelines establish the poverty line in the United States.
The 100% mark differs according to household size. The bigger the household, the higher the income will need to be to reach 100%.
For example, the 2014 Poverty Guidelines listed $15,730 as the income meeting the 100% requirement for a household size of two living in the contiguous United States.
So, a sponsor who is petitioning to bring over 1 immigrant will have to have an income of $15,370 or higher to satisfy the income requirement for a fiancé visa.
The requirements vary slightly if the sponsor lives outside of the 48 contiguous states.
For the current Poverty Guidelines, see: http://www.uscis.gov/i-864p
What if my sponsor does not reach the 125% mark?
There are a variety of ways to help your sponsor reach the adequate income level. One way is to get a joint-sponsor.
A joint-sponsor is someone who agrees to help financially support or be liable for the beneficiary of a visa petition. A joint-sponsor can be independent from the main sponsor, or another household member.
Even if the main sponsor does not meet the income requirements and they are using a joint-sponsor to supplement income, the main sponsor must still complete the Affidavit of Support form.
Can a sponsor use their assets to reach the poverty guidelines mark?
Yes. If a sponsor’s income does not meet the 125% mark on the poverty guidelines they are able to use the value of their assets to reach that point. Assets are counted at one-fifth their cash value, or one-third their value if you are immigrating as a child or spouse of a U.S. citizen.
Raj is sponsoring his fiancé Rinkal. Raj’s income is 5,000 dollars below the poverty guidelines requirement for his household size. Raj owns a car worth 25,000 dollars. This asset will be enough to satisfy the poverty guidelines requirement for Raj because one-fifth of the value of the car is 5,000 dollars. Raj only needed 5,000 dollars to satisfy the income requirement.
How do you become a sponsor?
A sponsor must be at least 18 years of age, a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or permanent resident. They must also live in the United States, U.S. territory or U.S. possession.
A sponsor can be virtually anyone who is willing to be responsible for the financial support of an immigrant and prevent them from becoming a “public charge” after their entry to the United States. In practice, the sponsor is typically the U.S. citizen fiancé or spouse who petitioned for their immigrant family member to enter the United States, or another family member with an interest in seeing the immigrant enter the United States.
USCIS provides two different Affidavit of Support forms with slightly different purposes in the fiancé visa context: Forms I-134 and I-864.
Sponsors of K-1 visa applicants may need to fill out form I-134 for their fiancé’s consular interview. Form I-134 is an Affidavit of Support. It is technically legally binding but rarely enforced at law.
Not all consulates require form I-134, but all consulates will want some form of evidence that the fiancé visa applicant will not become a public charge upon their entry to the United States.
Sponsors of K-3 visa applicants must complete an I-864. Also, after marriage, sponsors of K-1 visa applicants must file form I-864 along with their spouse’s I-485 Adjustment of Status application.
Form I-864 is also an Affidavit of Support, and it tends to be enforced more often than the I-134. Sponsors who complete an I-864 may be held to their pledge to provide financially for the immigrant and this may be enforced in court.
What responsibilities does a sponsor have?
Financial sponsors are legally bound to their I-864 contract to provide the requisite financial assistance from the time the immigrant becomes a permanent resident until after they become a U.S. citizen. It is a legally binding contract, and the immigrant can potentially sue the sponsor for up to the 125% of the income requirement from the Poverty Guidelines.
By filing form I-864, a sponsor should recognize they are taking on a serious responsibility.