Marriage Visa Income Requirements
If you are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident, and you are planning to sponsor your immigrant spouse for a marriage visa, the law requires that you meet a certain financial threshold. The U.S. Citizen spouse has to prove to the U.S. government that they have sufficient income to support their immigrant spouse and their dependents such as children if any. This article will take you through the different income requirements of different states and the numbers of dependents of the immigrant spouse. To begin with, it is important to understand what a marriage visa is, and why it requires proof of financial stability.
What Is A Marriage Visa?
A marriage visa is an immigrant visa for a spouse of a U.S. citizen or a U.S. permanent resident that allows them to immigrate into the United States. It is also referred to as the spouse visa and offers three visa types.
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This type of visa is for a couple who have been married for less than two years, one being a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident of the United States, and the other an immigrant spouse living abroad. The visa allows the immigrant spouse entry into the U.S. on the condition that the couple stays married for at least two years. This visa is therefore valid for only two years. If the couple ends their marriage before that time, the immigrant spouse loses their permission to stay in the US. They will be required to return to their home country.
If the couple remains married for more than two years, the immigrant partner will apply to adjust the status of their visa to the Immediate Relative Spouse IR-1. This visa allows the immigrant spouse to have a permanent status without the 2 years limit as with the CR-1 visa.
The K-3 Visa
This visa option is applied for a married immigrant spouse living abroad with an active marriage-based green card application. The visa allows them to enter the U.S. on temporary status as they await the approval of their permanent residence application.
The Affidavit Of Support
The Affidavit of Support Form I- 864 is among the forms filed by the sponsoring spouse to petition for their partner’s green card or marriage visa. This form is an agreement that the petitioner, who is also the sponsor, is financially able to support their immigrant spouse named in the affidavit. The petitioner takes on the responsibility of supporting the immigrant once they enter the country before they become a lawful permanent resident. The affidavit of support is a binding contract that holds the sponsor responsible for the immigrant spouse until they attain U.S. citizenship status or after they have been credited by the U.S. government after 40 quarters of work and social security. Given that each year has roughly four quarters of work, 40 quarters is approximately 10 years.
Because of this responsibility, the sponsoring spouse is required to meet certain income requirements to qualify, as defined by the Federal Poverty Guidelines and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services USCIS. The requirements differ according to the size of the family and the state of residence of the sponsoring spouse. Alaska and Hawaii have relatively higher household income requirements for sponsors because of the high cost of living in the two states.
Eligibility Requirements Of A U.S Citizen Sponsor Or Permanent Resident For Filing An Affidavit Of Support
The petitioner of the affidavit of support must meet a stipulated threshold before filing a petition. These requirements are as stated below:
- The petitioner must be a citizen of the United States or a permanent resident
- The petitioner must be at least 18 years old
- The petitioner be permanently living in the United States
- The petitioner must have filed Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
Read more: Form I-130 Instructions
After assessing and meeting these requirements, the petitioner will also need to provide evidence that they can meet the marriage visa income requirements stated by the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Minimum Income Requirements For Sponsors Living In:
The 48 Contiguous States, United States Territories, and District Of Colombia
As of February 2021, the Federal Poverty Guidelines stipulates that a petitioner must meet 125% of the federal income requirements. If the sponsoring spouse comes from any of these states, the minimum income requirement for two members of a household is $17,420 per year. For each additional person in the household, the amount rises by $4,540.
The minimum income requirement for sponsors living in Hawaii is higher. For two members of a household, the minimum threshold stands at $20, 040 per year as of February 2021. The amount increases by $5,220 for any additional member of the household.
Alaska’s high cost of living puts the financial threshold of sponsors at $21,770 per annum for 2 members of a household. Any additional member is supported by an increase of $5,680.
What If The Sponsor Does Not Meet The Minimum Income Requirements?
The sponsor may choose to supplement their income if they do not meet the minimum financial requirements. Here’s how:
Including Financial Assets As Evidence of Income
If the petitioner does not have enough income to meet the income guidelines, they may mention their financial assets in the Form I-864 to be evaluated as reliable sources of income. These financial assets may include real estate, savings account balances, business stakes, stocks, bonds, properties, among others. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will evaluate these assets to decide whether they amount to, or surpass the necessitated income requirements.
Requirements of the Sponsor’s assets
The Federal Guidelines require that the assets a sponsor may include in this application must be easily converted into money, and without much financial impact to the owner. If the assets are invested outside the U.S., the applicant must prove that the assets can be transferred from the country into the U.S. and that the limits set by the country do not affect the amount stated in the affidavit. Also, the assets must be at least five times the difference required to meet the 125% minimum income threshold.
A joint sponsor is a person who accepts to take up the responsibility of sponsoring an immigrant with the petitioner. The joint sponsor also has to meet the 125% income threshold individually. Joint sponsorship does not mean that the total income of both sponsor and the joint sponsor should add up to the 125% threshold. A joint sponsor files a separate Form I-864, solely showing that they are capable of fully supporting the immigrant spouse on behalf of the main sponsor. A joint sponsor must be above the age of 18 years and live in the US.
Other Sources Of Supplementary Income Allowed While Filing The Affidavit Of Support For A Marriage Visa
If the sponsor’s income tax returns do not amount to the 125% federal mark, there are several options that they may use as supplementary income.
Income Of A Household Member
The sponsor may add the income of their household members if they approve of it. The household member who agrees to this arrangement is required to prove their commitment by filling and signing another Form I-864A Contract Between Spouse and Household Member. By signing this form, the household member is agreeing to take financial responsibilities of the immigrant spouse, alongside the sponsor of the spouse.
Who Is A Household Member?
Not everyone that lives under the same roof as a sponsor is their household member. The people that are regarded as members of a household in the Federal Poverty Guidelines are:
- The sponsoring spouse
- The immigrant spouse or green card applicant
- Children under 21 years of age and unmarried
- Anyone mentioned as a dependent on the sponsor’s income tax reports
- Any other person sponsored by the applicant in a different affidavit of support
The eligibility criteria of a household member filing form I 864A are:
- They must be related to the sponsor through birth, adoption, or marriage.
- They must have either lived with the sponsor for the past six months, or they may have been listed as the sponsor’s dependents in their most recent income tax returns
- They must be living in the same residence as the primary sponsor
Income Of The Sponsored Spouse Seeking Green Card
If the sponsored spouse has reliable income sources, they may be counted in the affidavit. This source of income however needs to be consistent and continuous from the same source even after the immigrant spouse is granted a visa and immigrates to the United States.
Assets Of The Sponsored Spouse Seeking Green Card
The affidavit application also has a provision for using the assets of the sponsored spouse while making the application. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the ideal assets to be quoted in this application are those that are easy to liquidate within a year, and without much financial impact to the owner. If the assets are in a foreign country, there are additional requirements that the sponsored spouse is required to provide:
- The assets must be liquid. They should be convertible into cash within a year
- The assets must be movable from the foreign country to the United States, in accordance with the value of the asset as allowed by the foreign country
- The asset must be able to cover at least five times the difference in the sponsor’s income presented in their application
How To Calculate the Number of Assets To Include In Your Affidavit Of Support Application
If you need to back up your income, it is important that you learn how to calculate the value of the assets that you wish to present to the U.S. government. Here is how to do it in three easy steps.
Firstly, you need to identify your minimum household income required per year. This will depend on your household size, which includes all the dependents.
Secondly, get the difference between the total household income (include all the income for the household members), and the minimum required income you identified.
Lastly, triple the difference by multiplying the answer you got in step 2 by 3 for U.S. citizens, and by 5 for U.S. green cardholders.
The result is the total value of the financial assets that the sponsor will need to provide to the government agency.
Provisions For A Sponsor In Active Duty
The U.S. Military, Navy, and Armed Forces sponsors have a much lower minimum income requirement provided by the Federal Poverty Guidelines. They need to meet 100 percent of the income benchmarking threshold for them to sponsor their immigrant spouse for a marriage visa. A U.S. citizen meets all the other requirements of a sponsor because they are domiciled in the U.S and above the age of 18. They only need to prove that they are financially capable of taking up the sponsorship responsibilities.
Does Foreign Income Count?
If a sponsor is a U.S citizen but currently lives and works abroad, their foreign income does not count. However, there is an exception if the sponsor can prove that they will maintain the same job, hence the same income, when they move back to the U.S. Another option is to provide evidence of a new job that the sponsor has, that meets the minimum requirements while in the U.S.
Read more: Marrying a U.S. Citizen
Read more: How To Marry A Non-U.S. Citizen
Read more: The K-1 Fiancé Visa Explained