Many of our foreign clients who marry an American citizen think that as long as the marriage is in good faith, it is enough to obtain permanent residence. Sadly in real life, there is the harsh reality of finances. The American spouse must prove income equal to 125% of the poverty guidelines. If he/she’s income does not exceed the poverty guidelines, the couple will need the assistance of a co-sponsor.
To obtain permanent residence through marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident an affidavit of support must be filed with the Immigration Service or a U.S. Consulate to prove that the foreign spouse will not become a public charge. If the petitioning spouse does not have sufficient income, he/she may have a family member co-sponsor or if not available, then a close friend. The co-sponsor needs to be at least 18 but it is not necessary that he/she be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident provided the income shown is from lawful employment or from a legal source.
The affidavit of support is a written contract providing that the co-sponsor is jointly and severally liable for any financial obligation that the sponsor may incur in maintaining the foreign spouse, or a parent or other immediate family member.
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE SPONSOR AND CO-SPONSOR
With the affidavits of support, the most recent Federal tax return must be filed including the W-2 forms showing current employment income, and that it is enough to fulfill 125% of the poverty guidelines. Income is demonstrated by a copy of the most recent tax return. This is usually enough unless the examining officer has reasonable doubts about the tax return. Consulates are not permitted to demand an employment letter of the sponsor or co-sponsor, unless the Consulate has an articulable doubt about the truth of the submitted tax return. The Immigration Service or the Consulate Service may not insist on an update of the affidavit and accompanying documents unless at the time of the final interview for permanent residence the affidavit was filed more than one year before.
DOMICILE OF THE SPONSOR AND CO-SPONSOR
The Sponsor and the Co-Sponsor must be domiciled in the U.S. Even a U.S. citizen would not qualify if he/she lives abroad. Domicile is defined as an individual’s principal actual dwelling place. A potential sponsor or co-sponsor may in fact resume residence in the U.S. before or at the time of the immigrant visa of the beneficiary. There is no rule that the residence has to be an existence for any particular time period. The Sponsor or Co-Sponsor need merely indicate the steps he/she has taken to resume living in the U.S., such as finding a home here, or renting an apartment, and placing children in school. This evidence must be shown to be actual on or before the date of the immigrant’s permanent residence interview to the U.S. or adjustment of status.