Green Card Sponsor Requirements for Family-Based Immigrants

April 22, 2024
5 min

This article is a guest post contributed by CitizenPath, an online immigration platform providing an affordable and easy way to prepare USCIS forms correctly.

In U.S. immigration, all family-based immigrants generally need a sponsor. There is a family member who petitions a relative based on a qualifying relationship. That same petitioner is typically a financial sponsor as well. Thus, in addition to having a qualifying relationship, satisfying the green card sponsor requirements are equally important.

Sponsorship Requirement for Green Card

Almost all U.S. immigrants are subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility. This includes the spouse and step children of the U.S. petitioner. (There are a few exceptions, but they fall into humanitarian categories or individuals who were victims of specific crimes.) Through a “public charge test,” the government uses certain criteria to determine if the intending immigrant is likely at any time to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence. In other words, the government wants reassurance that the new immigrant won’t depend on the government for welfare. This is the basis of a need for the green card sponsor.

Even if the intending immigrant is wealthy, there is a sponsorship requirement for the green card. That’s why the applicant submits Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, prepared by a sponsor. Under current guidance, Form I-864 is typically sufficient to overcome the public charge ground of inadmissibility.

US green card

Use Form I-864 to Overcome Public Charge

If you are filing a family-based application for permanent residence (e.g. through marriage), expect to file Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. The person who petitioned the green card applicant must submit Form I-864 and act as a financial sponsor. However, other household members and/or a joint sponsor can join the petitioning sponsor to strengthen support if needed. The purpose of filing Form I-864 is to remove the public charge ground of inadmissibility.

For consular processing applicants, you’ll submit the Form I-864 near the end of the process. Adjustment of status applicants (applying from inside the United States) will submit Form I-864 along with the I-485 application.

The income requirements for a green card sponsor are based on federal poverty guidelines. When sponsoring an intending immigrant, the sponsor must have income or resources of at least 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. The sponsorship requirement is reduced to 100 percent of the FPG for active-duty military sponsoring a spouse or child.

2024 Income Requirements Based on Federal Poverty Guidelines

At the beginning of each year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) publishes federal poverty guidelines based on guidelines issued in the Federal Register by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These guidelines form the basis of the green card sponsor requirements.

For the 48 contiguous states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the following guidelines are in effect for 2024:

| Sponsor's Household Size | 100% of Poverty Guidelines | 125% of Poverty Guidelines | | :--- | :--- | :--- | | | For sponsors on active duty in the U.S. armed forces who are petitioning for their spouse or child | For all other sponsors | | 2 | $20,440 | $25,550 | | 3 | $25,820 | $32,275 | | 4 | $31,200 | $39,000 | | 5 | $36,580 | $45,725 | | 6 | $41,960 | $52,450 | | 7 | $47,340 | $59,175 | | 8 | $52,720 | $65,900 | | | Add $5,380 for each additional person | Add $6,725 for each additional person |

Due to the cost of living in Alaska and Hawaii, sponsors who live in these states have slightly different tables with higher green card income requirements. Refer to USCIS Form I-864P.

Determining Income and Household Size

USCIS has specific requirements for determining your qualifying income and household size. The rules for what counts and what doesn’t can get complicated.

CitizenPath is an affordable online service designed by immigration attorneys that helps people prepare U.S. immigration forms such as Form I-864. In addition to the fully prepared form, customers get a customized checklist of supporting documents needed for their situation.

Can’t Meet Income Requirements for Green Card Sponsorship

Even if the petitioner cannot meet the income requirements for green card sponsorship, there are other ways to qualify.

When a petitioner does not have income that exceeds 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines (100 percent for military), there are some options. First, a sponsor may use assets to make up the difference. However, sponsors should be aware that using assets can be complicated. Only a fraction of the total asset value may be used, and documentation can be difficult. Second, another household member may contribute. Household members generally include other people in the household who are on the same tax return. In rare situations, the household member can be the intending immigrant spouse. However, this is typically limited to situations where the intending immigrant is already working in the United States.

Even if the petitioning sponsor does not have the means to satisfy the green card sponsor requirements, the petition must submit Form I-864. In these cases, it is essential that that green card applicant also include a joint sponsor.

A joint sponsor is a friend or family member (living anywhere in the United States) who can satisfy the income requirements for a green card sponsorship. In other words, they have an income that exceeds 125 percent of the FPG for their household size (including the intending immigrant).

Domicile Requirement for Green Card Sponsor

When sponsoring a spouse (and children), the sponsor must have a U.S. domicile. In other words, the sponsor must be living in the United States (to include the District of Columbia and U.S. territories) and plan to maintain a principal residence in the U.S. for the foreseeable future.

Certain individuals living overseas temporarily or who are working for specific types of employers may also be able to claim U.S. domicile. But what if you’ve made another country your home for several years, and now you plan to repatriate to the United States with our spouse? There is a solution.

A petitioner who has been abroad made provide evidence of intent to reestablish domicile in the U.S. Accepting U.S. employment, registering children in school, signing a new lease, and other actions can help an individual reestablish U.S. domicile for the purposes of meeting the sponsorship requirements for a green card.

How CitizenPath Can Help

If you plan to help a fiancé, spouse or other loved one immigrate to the United States, it’s important to understand the green card sponsor requirements. Because sponsors often do not understand how to prepare the form or fail to submit adequate supporting documents, the Affidavit of Support is one of the most USCIS forms to generate a Request of Evidence letter or even a denial. If you decide you need help, CitizenPath’s online service is an affordable solution for families.

Let us handle the paperwork.

Getting married is complicated. Courtly simplifies the process and provides everything necessary to get married online, including providing a licensed officiant who can perform a remote ceremony.

Get Married