Have you learned about the marriage-based green card process and determined that you are eligible to become a U.S. permanent resident?
If so, you probably know that among the eligibility criteria are specific income requirements that a sponsor has to meet. This applies whether you are a sponsor, a joint sponsor, or a substitute sponsor. Since many people doubt whether they meet these criteria, we prepared this article to dive into more details on determining your eligibility regarding enough income.
Short Review Of Marriage-based Green Card Income Requirements
The sponsor must:
Be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident, living in the United States and at least 18 years old.
Have an annual income of at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (the more people in a household, the higher income is needed).
can use assets as well to meet these requirements. (cash, stocks and bonds, and property).
Also, remember that any other household member can help the financial sponsor meet these requirements, and this person doesn’t have to be a family member. The immigration spouse seeking the green card (the “beneficiary”) may also help the situation by using the income, but only as long as this income will continue from the same source after the green card is obtained.
Continue to read to find out about possibilities to meet this requirement.
Minimum Income Level
The household income has to be equal to or higher than 125% of the U.S. poverty level for your household size.
The most common minimum annual income for a marriage green card is $21,775, assuming that the sponsor is not on active military duty and is sponsoring only one relative.
The table showing the income requirements increase based on the family size you can find here. Note that, as USCIS stated on this page, residents of Alaska and Hawaii have to meet higher income requirements than the 48 Contiguous States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
If a sponsoring spouse is on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States, the income only needs to be equal to 100% of the U.S. poverty level for the household size.
The U.S. government updated its Poverty Guidelines on Apr. 1, 2021.
Determining the Household Size
As you could see in the tables provided on the USCIS website, your income requirements will depend on the size of the household members, including:
- Your foreign spouse
- Any dependent: children younger than 21 or others listed on your most recent Federal income tax return
- Any beneficiary previously sponsored with a Form I-864 or Form I-864 EZ affidavit of support you are still obligated to support.
- Any derivative applicants planning to immigrate within six months.
- Anyone sponsored in this Affidavit of Support.
What is Affidavit of Support?
Affidavit of Support or Form I-864 is a legal contract required by the law for most intending immigrants. It is concluded between the sponsor or petitioner and the U.S. government proving that an immigrant has adequate means of financial support.
What sources of income can I include?
Generally, your annual income as a sponsor is the exact figure you reported on your U.S. federal income tax return for the most recent tax filing year. The total yearly income can include wages and salaries, retirement benefits, child support, alimony, dividends or interest earned, and income from other legal sources.
Will my foreign income count?
If you currently live outside the United States, your foreign income will not count towards the minimum requirements unless you prove you will remain in your current job once you are in the United States or have a new job lined up that meets the minimum requirements. Good examples are remote jobs or just transferring offices within large corporations.
What if I Don’t Meet the Income Requirements?
If your annual income is not over 125% of the household income, you’ll have to think about taking other means to meet this requirement.
It is allowed to meet the minimum income requirement for your household size by using any of the combinations listed here:
- Income from any relative or dependent living in your household or listed on your most recent Federal income tax return also signed Form I-864A
- Income from your immigrant spouse, if it will continue from the same source after immigration.
- The value of yours and the assets of any household member signed I-864A Form of the intending immigrants, or
- A joint sponsor whose income equals at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Using Income of Your Relatives and Household Members
If you do not meet the income requirements to sponsor your immigrant spouse, members of your household may help you meet this requirement. To do this, these persons have to be in particular relation to you, such as by birth, marriage, or adoption.
In other words, if used jointly, your income plus the income of any relative living in your residence can be enough for meeting the requirement.
Still, you have to list them as dependents on your most recent federal tax return, or you should prove that they have lived with you for the last six months.
Also, these household members and dependents must complete and sign Form I-864A, along with Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member.
Using the Income of a Joint Sponsor to Meet The Requirements
As we mentioned above, if the petitioning sponsor does not meet the income requirements, there is a possibility for a joint sponsor who can meet the requirements to submit a Form I-864 to sponsor the petitioner’s immigrant spouse.
This means that the joint sponsor accepts the legal responsibility of supporting your spouse with you.
Besides the will to be held jointly liable with you for the support of the intending immigrant, a joint sponsor has to:
- Be a U.S. citizen, green-card holder, or U.S. national and
- Be at least 18 years old
- Domiciled in the United States
The minimum annual income requirement applies here as well. The joint sponsor must meet the minimum annual income requirement of 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for your household size until the end of your obligations. The income has to fit all the sponsoring immigrants without combining resources with the petitioning sponsor or a second joint sponsor.
Using Immigrant Spouse’s Income to Meet Financial Requirements
Your immigrant spouse can also help you meet the income requirements by joining his or her income.
Bear in mind the rule that your immigrant spouse can do this only if this income continues to come from the same source after the foreign spouse obtains a green card.
Using Assets to Meet the Income Requirements: If my income still isn’t enough, Can I Use my Assets?
The answer is yes: When your total combined household income still is not high enough to meet the minimum annual income requirement, you can use your assets. In this case, your assets will be used as a substitute for income.
As applies to income, also here, you can count your household members’ assets and family members. The following criteria have to be met:
- They are related to you by birth, marriage, or adoption.
- They have to be listed as dependents on your most recent federal tax return, or as a sponsor, you must show that they have lived with you for the last six months.
What assets can I use?
Financial sponsors may use assets convertible into cash within twelve months and without any difficulties that can cause hardship or financial loss to the owner or his or her family members.
The financial sponsor can include the automobile’s value only if they can show that they have more than one car, and the primary one is not included. In other words, the sponsor must be able to sell it. The financial sponsor is required only to use U.S. assets.
So, to meet this requirement, you may include savings accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs), property, mutual fund investments, individual stocks, and bonds, etc. The value of the sponsor’s home also can be included. You will need to prove that you own the used assets.
You have to prove that the value of your assets converted in cash is worth five times the difference from the minimum income requirement (125% of the poverty level for your family size).
You will obviously need to enlist the assets and mainly prove that you own them, indicating your own portion.
What amount of assets do I need to include?
Here, we will show you how to easily calculate how much of your assets you’ll need to include on the Affidavit of Support Form as a substitute for income:
Step 1. Find Minimum Annual Income Requirement
Look for the minimum annual income required for your household size. Find this in the tables we mentioned above, listed on the USCIS website.
Step 2. Get the Remainder
Subtract your total, and combined household income from your minimum required income.
Step 3. Do the Math
If you are a financial sponsor who is a U.S. citizen, multiply the difference by 3 or 5 if you are a green-card holder. The result is the total value of your household’s assets that you’ll need to confirm to meet the financial requirements.
Can I count my Spouse’s assets, even if it is outside the United States?
If, after you included your own assets, determine that it is still not enough to meet the income requirement, you can count the assets of your immigrant spouse. It doesn’t matter where your spouse lives, in or outside the U.S., or where the spouse’s assets are located.
However, it does matter if your spouse meets additional criteria:
- Assets must be “liquid” (convertible into cash within one year).
- The spouse must be able to move the assets to the United States, and only up to the value the country allowed for each asset.
- The total value of assets must equal the difference between the sponsor’s income and the applicable minimum requirement at least five times.
How an Immigration Lawyer Can Help Me?
As the whole green card process can last a long time, filling out an Affidavit of Support can be confusing and challenging. Still, you will need an adequately completed I-864 for your marriage-based green card approval. To get it correctly done, you will need to include a bunch of papers to back up your claimed income and assets or your joint sponsor’s. To avoid any mistakes that can cost you losing the opportunity to bring your spouse to the United States, hiring a lawyer would be a smart step.
Richard Herman is an experienced immigration attorney who can help you assess what you will need as evidence to meet the requirements we talked about. With an individual approach to your case, we will make sure the best strategy is defined and used in your case.
If you have questions about this process or you just decided to team up with our legal team, book your consultations with Richard Herman or use an online form to request legal consultation on our site.