The Affidavit of Support (I-864) Domicile Requirement
Any individual seeking to immigrate to the U.S. must prove to the U.S. government they will not become a “public charge” (someone who is dependent upon need-based government assistance.) This is known as the “Affidavit of Support” process, and requires Form I-864 be submitted with the other immigration-related paperwork. This form must be filled out by the immigrant’s petitioner family member, or in some cases, by a co-sponsor.
The affidavit of support sponsor is required to meet certain income requirements, and be a Green Card holder or U.S. citizen. Another important requirement is that the sponsor must be domiciled in the U.S. Stated differently, the sponsor must be residing in the U.S., with the intent to make this country his or her home. However, in today’s global nomad world, many U.S. citizens reside abroad, along with their spouse, and are planning their future relocation to the U.S. In such instances, the sponsor may have difficulty proving current U.S. domicile.
Problems can ensue if the sponsor doesn’t live in the U.S. at the time of Form I-864 submission. Previously, the Form was submitted during the Immigrant Visa Interview, but current practice is that the Form is submitted to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) months before the Immigrant Visa Interview. At the time of the interview, the immigrant will need to prove that the sponsor’s time abroad is temporary—such as due to a temporary work contract or temporary employment abroad for the U.S. government. It is important to prove that the sponsor living abroad: left the United States for a limited and not indefinite period of time; intended to maintain a domicile in the United States; and has evidence of continued ties to the United States.
If the petitioner/sponsor cannot show that his or her residence abroad has been only temporary, the sponsor has an option, as provided under the Code of Federal Regulations, section 8 CFR § 213a.2(c)(1)(ii)(B). Namely, the immigrant will need to prove to the satisfaction of the Department of State officer that the sponsor has taken steps establish a domicile in the United States, and will take up physical residence there either before, or on the date that the immigrant enters the U.S. as a permanent resident. That means that the sponsor will need to arrive in the United States before, or at least at the same time as, the immigrant.
The Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual, at 9 FAM 40.41 N6.1-2(b), describes steps the sponsor may have taken to establish U.S. domicile. To establish ‘intended domicile’, the sponsor can show that he or she has:
- opened a US bank account
- transferred funds to the U.S.
- invested in a U.S. company or fund
- looked for a job in the U.S.
- registered children in U.S. schools
- applied for a Social Security Number (SSN), and/or
- voted in a U.S. election
It is important to have domicile or ‘intended domicile’ evaluated before applying for a US visa abroad. Usually, when such immigrants or their family members contact our office, it is after an immigrant visa refusal, which, of course, can cause major delays or disruptions to a family’s immigration trajectory. It is best to come prepared to the Embassy Visa interview with the correct documents or explanation for any interruption in U.S. residence by the sponsor.