To determine income for the USCIS Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, you will need to provide documentation of your income, such as your federal tax returns for the most recent three years, W-2 forms, and pay stubs.
The income must meet or exceed the federal poverty guidelines for your household size. The sponsor may also use assets, such as real estate or investments, to meet the income requirements, but that can get complex and contentious so applicants choose to document income if possible.
If the sponsor is not able to meet the income requirements on their own, a co-sponsor may be used, or the sponsor can use a combination of their own income and assets.
So we end up with three questions:
- What is my household size for the purposes of FORM I-864?
- What are the federal poverty guidelines for the given year?
- What income line from the Federal Tax Returns can be used for FORM I-864?
Step 1: What is my household size for the purposes of FORM I-864?
The FORM I-864 has an integrated worksheet to help us answer this question (see page 4, Part 5 for 12/08/21 edition of FORM I-864).
Add together the number of persons for whom you are financially responsible. Some of these persons may not be residing with you. Make sure you do not count any individual more than once. In some cases, the same person could fit into two categories. For example, your spouse, whom you would enter in Item Number 3., might also be a lawful permanent
resident for whom you have already sponsored using Form I-864 (Item Number 6.). USCIS directs us to make sure we do not count any individual twice.
Now that we have the household size, we can look up the poverty guidelines based on that.
Step 2: What are the federal poverty guidelines for the given year?
The federal poverty guidelines, also known as the federal poverty level (FPL), are used to determine financial eligibility for certain government programs and benefits
The poverty guidelines are usually published in January of each year. You can check the guidelines on the website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or on the website of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
You can find these guidelines at the following link: https://www.uscis.gov/i-864p
From there pick your location: 48 Contiguous States, Alaska and Hawaii have their own guidelines.
For FORM I-864, we are looking for the 125% of HHS Poverty Guidelines column, OR 100% of HHS Poverty Guidelines for sponsors on active duty in the U.S. armed forces who are petitioning for their spouse or child.
Because we already know the household size, (See step 1 above) all we have to do is look up the income number on the Poverty Guidelines chart.
This number will be the minimum income USCIS will look for from the sponsor on FORM I-864. As stated above, If the sponsor is not able to meet the income requirements on their own, a co-sponsor may be used, or the sponsor can use a combination of their own income and assets. Note that the petitioner must fill out form I-864, even if they do not qualify to sponsor on their own, and need a co-sponsor.
Step 3: What income line from the Federal Tax Returns can be used for FORM I-864?
Now we should know our household size and the minimum income we must show to USCIS to sponsor the beneficiary on FORM I-864. But how do we know which income line to use from our tax returns?
For purposes of FORM-864, the line for Total Income on IRS Forms 1040 and 1040A will be considered when determining income. For persons filing IRS Form 1040 EZ, the line for adjusted gross income will be considered.
So the answer depends on how you filed your income taxes last year.
You must provide either an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) transcript or a photocopy from your own records of your Federal individual income tax return for the most
recent tax year. If you believe additional returns may help you to establish your ability to maintain sufficient income, you may want to submit transcripts or photocopies of your Federal individual income tax returns for the three most recent years.
You are not required to have the IRS certify the transcript or photocopy unless specifically instructed to do so, a plain transcript or photocopy is acceptable. You do not need to send in your STATE tax returns. You should submit W2 form copies with your tax returns if you have any, as USCIS often asks for these forms in their requests for evidence.
Filing out FORM I-864 can be challenging, and not doing it correctly can be the basis for denial of your immigration case. If USCIS sends you a request for additional evidence, this is usually your only chance to provide relevant proof before the case is denied.
The above walk-through assumes multiple givens and may not apply to your specific situation. It is not legal advice. USCIS requirements often change with little warning. There may be other ways to present or document your case and prove your income. Contact our office to request a consultation with an immigration attorney about your particular matter.