US immigration issues final rule for green card Affidavit of Support

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When applying for a U.S. green card, a person must have an Affidavit of Support. This is a document required by a green card applicant that any American citizen sponsoring them must submit. Usually this is a relative, and is used to prove that the applicant will have financial support so that they don't end up on public assistance once in the U.S.

On 21 June, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published its Final Rule regarding updates to the Affidavit of Support. Effective 21 July, 2006, all decisions issued by USCIS regarding green card applications will be based upon the rule and the new forms associated with it. Specifically, cases filed prior to 21 July that are decided on or after 21 July will fall under the new rule.

The EZ Affidavit of Support (Form I-864EZ) and the Intending Immigrant's I-864 Exemption (Form I-864W) are the two new forms. These apply to most family-based and some employment-based immigrants. All applications for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status on or after this date are affected.

The Affidavit of Support process should now be easier for most sponsors, while at the same time continuing to ensure that each intending immigrant has a sponsor who has sufficient income and/or assets to support the immigrant(s).

The goal and effect is to generally reduce the required initial documentation. Each sponsor now only has to submit his or her single most recent tax return, rather than the previously required tax returns from the three most recent federal tax returns, pay stub(s) covering the most recent six months, and an employer letter.

Key points on the changes are quoted from the news release as follows:

• Introduces new EZ Affidavit of Support (Form I-864EZ): The EZ Affidavit of Support is a short form Affidavit of Support to be used by certain petitioning sponsors who rely only upon their own employment to meet the affidavit of support requirements.

• Establishes new Intending Immigrant's I-864 Exemption (Form I-864W): This new form is specifically designed to standardize and make more efficient the process certain immigrants must follow to establish that they are not required to have an affidavit of support filed on their behalf.

• Eliminates the affidavit of support requirement in certain cases-for example:

-> Sponsored immigrants who have, or can be credited with, 40 quarters of covered employment; and

-> Adopted children who will qualify for citizenship immediately upon entry under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

NOTE: The new Form I-864W should be filed in these situations and two other situations noted on the form.

• Allows two joint sponsors per family unit intending to immigrate based upon the same petition: If two joint sponsors are used, each joint sponsor is responsible only for the intending immigrant(s) listed on that joint sponsor's Form I-864, Affidavit of Support.

• Provides more flexible definition of "household size."

-> Allows, but does not require, sponsors to include as part of household size any relatives in the household who are not dependents if they complete a Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member (Form I-864A) promising to make their income and/or assets available to the sponsor and intending immigrants.

-> Eliminates the requirement that household members must have lived in the sponsor's household for at least six months in order to sign a Form I-864A.

• Reduces the amount of assets that certain sponsors must show in order to cover any shortfall in their household income.

-> Sponsors of immediate relative spouses and children of U.S. citizens: Amount of required assets is reduced from five times to three times the difference between the governing poverty guideline and actual household income.

-> Sponsors of alien orphan intending immigrants where the orphan will acquire citizenship after admission because of adoption in the U.S. or formal recognition of the foreign adoption: Amount of required assets is reduced to the difference between the governing poverty guideline and actual household income.


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