A problem that plagues many fiancé(e) visa sponsors is the requirement that the sponsor’s “stable” gross earnings after business deductions exceed 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines in order to qualify for sponsorship. This requirement rises to 125 percent once you marry your fiancé(e) and he or she seeks permanent residence. Moreover, these earnings must be “stable” enough to ensure your long-term financial ability to support your fiancé(e).
In dollars and cents, this means that you must have stable earnings of at least $16,910 per year for a two-person household (in 2019) to qualify as financial sponsor for a fiancé(e) visa petition, and you must have stable earnings of at least $21,137 per year for a two-person household to qualify as financial sponsor for a permanent residence petition. These are minimums, and meeting them does not guarantee that the petition will not be denied for financial reasons.
You must complete Form I-134 and release your tax returns to prove that your earnings qualify under the applicable standard. The purpose of requiring such intrusive disclosures is to ensure that your fiancé(e) will not need public assistance, such as welfare payments, while in the US.
What Are the Different Sources of Income that Guarantees Eligibility?
The government requires that sponsors have a stable source of income to be eligible to support their fiancée. According to the USCIS standards, the income sources guarantee eligibility include that earned in and through the US. Additionally, this could include your day-to-day job and earnings from other sources like benefits through retirement and disability. If the sponsor’s earnings apply to IRS tax forms, such as interest income, they may be eligible.
Essentially, the income must be able to provide consistently, and long-term income or the USCIS will doubt that the sponsor is earning a living. Earning unemployment or welfare benefits only disqualifies the US sponsor from sponsoring another for a fiancé visa.
Which Income Counts as “Stable Earnings?”
Different types of income are treated differently for immigration purposes:
- Your salary counts as earnings as long as it is US-based (see below for a more detailed discussion of the “US-based” requirement), and it counts as stable earnings unless your job is seasonal or temporary.
- Traditional types of earnings that you would report on IRS Form 1040, such as capital gains and interest income, count as earnings, and whether they are stable depends on their expected duration.
- Unemployment benefits count as earnings but are not as stable, except possibly in combination with a new job.
- Retirement benefits count as stable earnings.
- VA benefits count as stable earnings.
- Social Security retirement benefits count as stable earnings.
- Social security permanent disability benefits count as stable earnings.
- Social security temporary disability benefits count as earnings but not stable earnings.
- Social security SSI benefits (financial need-based disability benefits) do not count as earnings.
- Welfare benefits do not count as earnings, and receiving them can disqualify you from sponsoring your fiancé(e) at all.
The US-Based Income Requirement
This requirement could cause you big problems if, for example, you meet your fiancé(e) while working overseas and plan to return to the US together. The major exceptions to this rule are US military income, income from a Department of Defense contractor and (sometimes) a temporary overseas assignment by a US-based company.
Proving Income Requirements Have Been Met
The USCIS will need you to provide supporting evidence to show that you have met the income requirements. You will submit Form I-134, Declaration of Financial Support, to show that you have sufficient financial resources. You will also show proof of current employment and US federal income tax return for the most recent year. If you do not have the required tax return for the year, you will need to provide a valid explanation.
Along with the form, you will submit proof of identity and income. You may also need to include some additional documents, depending on your answers on the form. Overall, your tax return is the most important proof that you have a stable source of income.
What to Do If I Cannot Meet Minimum Income Requirements
You must meet the income requirements established by the USCIS before applying for the K-1 visa. You can do joint sponsorship if you cannot meet the income requirement. This is where you find someone else with a more stable income than yourself who will sponsor your fiancé alongside you. This other person can be a family member, friend, or colleague who is also a resident of the United States.
If you qualify for joint sponsorship, you can go for that. However, if you don’t, there are other alternatives to help you sponsor your visa – like applying for a marriage-based immigrant visa.
Sponsor’s Tax Returns
The most important document for determining your financial ability to sponsor your fiancé(e) is your most recent year’s IRS tax return. Previous years’ tax returns do help show income stability, however, and some embassies and consulates require sponsors to submit the past three years’ tax returns. You must provide your tax return(s) at the end of case processing, however, not at the beginning.
At present, all US embassies and consulates except the US Embassy in Manila, Philippines allow you to add a joint financial sponsor to your application in order to meet minimum earnings requirements. You might, for example, add one of your parents as a sponsor if you have just graduated from college and your income is low. Although approval under joint sponsorship is possible, all other things being equal it is far better to sponsor your fiancé(e) on your own.
Assets in Lieu of Earnings
Assets cannot be used in place of earnings for a fiancé(e) visa petition. If you can secure a fiancé(e) visa, however, your assets can potentially be used in lieu of earnings when seeking permanent residence for your fiancé(e) after you marry him or her. Even then, your total assets must exceed 300 percent of the minimum annual earnings requirement.
All things considered, it is best to make sure that you qualify under the 125 percent standard before you even submit a fiancé(e) visa application.
The Process of Filing Visa Income Requirements
The petitioning US citizen fiancé will be required to file the income requirements for a K-1 visa twice. The first will be through the consular process to bring their foreign national fiancé(e) from their home country to the US. Also, they will file the income requirements during the process of adjustment of K-1 status. The forms for stages one and two include Form I-134 and Form I-864, respectively.
Get Your I-134 Affidavit of Support
Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, is the first form for filing visa income requirements. The US sponsor will submit this form as part of the initial process of bringing the alien fiancé(e) into the US. The form is meant for nonimmigrant sponsors for K-1 fiancé visas to demonstrate that the beneficiary fiancé will not rely on public benefits. The USCIS measures the petitioner’s financial ability by the HHS poverty guideline.
The form also helps the sponsor show that their income meets the poverty guidelines for that year. If the visa is approved, the USCIS will issue the beneficiary fiancé(e) a nonimmigrant visa to enter the United States.
Get Your I-864 Affidavit of Support
Once your foreign national fiancé(e) is in the US, you are expected to get married within ninety days. If your fiancé(e) (now spouse) will continue staying in the US after this, they will need to file for adjustment of status.
As the sponsoring spouse, you must file another Affidavit of Support, but a different one this time: I-864. This form helps assure the government that you can support your fiancé(e) once they become a green card holder.
The threshold for Form I-864 is higher than that of I-134; your income must be 25% (at least) higher than the poverty guidelines. Signing this form means you accept legal responsibility for your K-1 spouse’s financial well-being until they become citizens. Or, at least, until they are credited with up to forty-quarters of social security coverage.
What Should You Do In the Case of Fiancé Visa Denials?
If your fiancé visa petition was denied, you have three options for a chance at living permanently in the US. You can appeal the denial, re-apply for the K1 visa from scratch, or marry your fiancé in a foreign country. If you choose to appeal the decision, you must do so within thirty-three days after the USCIS offers the decision to appeal.
You can appeal if you feel the decision was based on incomplete or inaccurate information that can be clarified to change the decision. Otherwise, you may simply reapply for the K1 visa, but only if the reason for denial can be properly addressed in the reapplication. The last option is legally marrying your fiancé(e) in another country and then applying for a CR1 visa afterward.
Summary of Income Requirements for Fiancé Visa Processing
The fiancé visa, also known as the K-1 visa, is a nonimmigrant visa issued to foreign nationals to marry their US citizen fiancé(e) in the US. The US citizen files the petition on behalf of the alien fiancé and must meet certain sponsorship requirements.
One of the important requirements is that the sponsor must prove that they can financially support the foreign national. Under the law, the sponsor must qualify under the 125% standard of the HHS poverty guidelines before applying.
Fiancé Visa Processing FAQ
How much do I need to make to bring my fiancé to the USA?
As of 2022, the minimum income you can make to bring your fiancé to the USA is $22,887. This number is for a household of two; the number of your household members is used to calculate the number.
What are the requirements for a fiancé visa?
First, the sponsor must be a US citizen (not a permanent resident), and both partners must be unmarried. The US sponsor must meet the income requirements; both parties must have met in person at least once in two years. Both parties will sign a document stating that they will get married within 90 days of the alien fiancé(e)’s entry into the US.
What percentage of fiancé visas are approved?
The recent statistics for the approval rate of fiancé visas in 2022 show that 41% of K-1 visas are approved. To get approved, both the sponsor and the sponsor must play their part, ensuring due compliance when filing the petition.
What is the fastest way to get a fiancé visa?
First, ensure both you and your fiancé(e) meet the standard eligibility requirements, including the income requirements for sponsors. Then, fill the forms correctly, preferably with legal help to reduce the chances of rejection or denial.
What is the place of proof of income for a fiancé visa?
You need proof of income to sponsor your foreign national fiancé(e) for a fiancé visa. Without this, the USCIS will not process the application because it means your fiancé will become a public charge.
What is the easiest way to bring my fiancé to the USA?
The easiest way to bring your fiancé to the USA if you are a US citizen is with a nonimmigrant K-1 visa. However, you must be ready to get married within 90 days after your fiancé enters the US.