We have previously written about the Form I-864 Affidavit of Support, the contract between a Petitioner or “Sponsor” and the U.S. Government showing that the Sponsor has enough income or assets to financially provide for the Sponsor’s household family members and the intending immigrant(s). The Affidavit of Support legally binds the Sponsor to provide such financial support. If the Petitioner/Sponsor is unable to demonstrate enough income or assets, other persons may be a “Joint Sponsor” for the intending immigrant(s).
To qualify as a Sponsor or Joint Sponsor, an individual must be a natural person, not a company, who:
- Is a U.S. citizen, national, or lawful permanent resident (“LPR”) of the United States (including conditional residents);
- Is at least 18 years of age;
- Filed the Form I-130 Petition which forms the basis for the visa application (not a Joint Sponsor); and
- Is “domiciled” in any of the 50 States of the United States, the District of Columbia, or any territory or possession of the United States.
If the Petitioner does not meet the qualifying criteria to be a Sponsor (for example, under 18 years of age or not domiciled in the United States), the intending immigrant(s) will require a Joint Sponsor. Any Joint Sponsor must also meet the above requirements.
The term “domicile” means the place where a Sponsor has his or her principal “residence” in the United States, with the intention to maintain that residence for the foreseeable future. A Petitioner who is maintaining a principal residence outside the United States cannot normally claim a U.S. domicile and would be ineligible to submit a Form I-864 Affidavit of Support. If a Petitioner cannot satisfy the domicile requirement, the Petitioner fails to qualify as a Sponsor and a Joint Sponsor cannot be accepted. The intending immigrant(s) visa application(s) would then be refused.
In certain cases, a LPR living abroad temporarily may be considered to have a domicile in the United States if he or she has taken action to preserve his or her residence. Moreover, a U.S. citizen living abroad working for qualified employers, such as the U.S. government, a U.S. company or subsidiary, public international organizations, or an organization engaged in ministerial work, may still be considered to be domiciled in the United States.
If a Petitioner is living outside the U.S. and determined not to be domiciled in the U.S., he or she can take steps to reestablish a domicile in the United States in order to qualify as a Sponsor and file an Affidavit of Support. Such steps may include:
- Purchasing or renting a home;
- Opening a bank account;
- Transferring funds to the United States;
- Making investments in the United States;
- Seeking employment in the United States;
- Registering children in U.S. schools; and
- Voting in local, State, or Federal elections.
Anyone wanting to sponsor a family member to immigrate to the U.S. but is currently living abroad should consider whether they have a domicile in the U.S., or understand the need to reestablish a domicile in the U.S., before filing a Form I-130 Petition for their relative.
Note this article addresses only Affidavits of Support based on a Petitioner filing a Form I-130 Petition. In some instances, other immigrant visa applicants may require an Affidavit of Support.
If you have questions, contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org and speak with a U.S. immigration attorney in Ho Chi Minh City, Manila and Taipei.