Many categories of individuals who wish to enter the U.S. as immigrants or non-immigrants need to prove that they will not become “public charge” or, in other words, a financial burden to the U.S. government.
Most family and certain employment-based immigrant visa petitioners are required to file an Affidavit of Support on Form I-864 and supporting documents in order to prove that they will be able to support the impending immigrant beneficiary. The Form I-864 is considered to be a binding contract between the beneficiary and petitioner, and thus, assuming that the petitioner meets the financial requirements for sponsorship, it is very convincing evidence that the beneficiary will not become public charge.
However, in non-immigrant cases, the petitioner is not required to submit an Affidavit of Support on Form I-864. Instead, consular officers may request that the petitioner fill out Form I-134, which is not considered binding, and provide supporting documentation to show that the relative will not become public charge in the U.S. This determination is discretionary and consular officers will often choose to err on the safe side and deny a case, if there is any doubt as to the petitioner’s ability to support the beneficiary in the U.S.
A petitioner in an immigrant visa case who does not meet the requirements on his or her own may be able to meet the requirements through a co-sponsor or a joint sponsor. However, many U.S. Embassies take the position that for certain non-immigrant categories (K-1 fiancé and K-3 spouse visas in particular), a co-sponsor or a joint sponsor may not be used. Other U.S. Embassies take the position that a co-sponsor or a joint sponsor may be used if the petitioner is in school and is being supported by his or her parents as evidenced on the parents’ tax returns. Still other embassies might accept documentation regarding a third party sponsor’s income and find that sufficient to overcome the public charge inadmissibility ground.
In the first scenario above, petitioners who cannot meet the financial requirements on their own may either have to wait until they begin to receive a stable income, or proceed with the filing of an immigrant petition on behalf of the beneficiary instead, so that a third party financial sponsor may be used.
Improperly completed Affidavits of Support and related errors are a major cause of immigrant and K visa denials for otherwise eligible applicants at U.S. Embassies abroad. It is very important to consult with experienced immigration counsel for assistance with such visas.