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Legal Consequences of Signing Form I-864 Affidavit of Support

What is the I-864?

Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, is an immigration form guaranteeing that the signer will provide financial support to a foreign national beneficiary (the intending immigrant). It is a required form in many immigrant visa and green card application processes. By signing the I-864, the signer promises to maintain the intending immigrant at 125% of the Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Federal Poverty Guidelines (see Table below) and to reimburse government agencies for any means-tested benefits paid to the noncitizen beneficiary.

Who Must Sign Form I-864?

With some exceptions, all U.S. citizen (“USC”) or lawful permanent resident (“LPR”) petitioners for foreign family members must sign the I-864 during the green card or immigrant visa application process. Some U.S. employer-petitioners for immigrant workers also must file the I-864 consequent to employment-related green card or immigrant visa applications. Petitioners for immigrants arriving on a fiancé(e) visa provide the I-864 as an attachment to a green card application only after the fiancé(e) arrives in the U.S. and marries the USC. Prior to arrival, the fiancé(e) petitioner generally signs Form I-134, not Form I-864. Although the two forms appear to implicate similar legal consequences, courts have determined the I-134 is not enforceable against an immigration sponsor.

Voluntary I-864 Signers: Joint Sponsors and Household Members

If the petitioner’s current financial situation is insufficient to meet the Federal Poverty Guideline threshold, additional individuals may join to sponsor the immigrant. For one, certain household members of the petitioning sponsor may pool their income with the petitioner to meet the income threshold. Such household members may include a spouse, parent, child or sibling living in the same residence as the petitioner. In some cases, the intending immigrant or federal tax dependents may also count as household members in this context. And two, any non-household member USC or LPR may also volunteer to help the petitioner as a Joint Sponsor. Joint Sponsors do not aggregate their financial resources with the petitioner. Rather, Joint Sponsors must be able to independently (or with their own household members) meet the required financial threshold. Household Members sign Form I-864A, and Joint Sponsors sign their own I-864.

What is the Legal Effect of My Signing Form I-864?

If you sign Form I-864 on behalf of any intending immigrant applying for an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status, and that intending immigrant submits Form I-864 to the U.S. Government with his or her application for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status, under INA section 213A, these actions create a contract between you and the U.S. Government. The intending immigrant becoming a lawful permanent resident is the consideration for the contract.

Under this contract, you agree that, in deciding whether the intending immigrant can establish that he or she is not inadmissible to the United States as a person likely to become a public charge, the U.S. Government can consider your income and assets as available for the support of the intending immigrant.

Household Members and Joint Sponsors generally have joint and several liability for I-864 support obligations with the petitioning sponsor.

What If I Choose Not to Sign Form I-864?

The U.S. Government cannot make you sign Form I-864 if you do not want to do so. But if you do not sign Form I-864, the intending immigrant may not be able to become a lawful permanent resident in the United States.

What Does Signing Form I-864 Require Me to Do?

If an intending Immigrant becomes a LPR based on a Form I-864 that you have signed, then, until your obligations under Form I-864 terminate, you must:

  1. Provide the intending immigrant any support necessary to maintain him or her at an income that is at least 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for his or her household size (100 percent if you are the petitioning sponsor and are on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces or U.S. Coast Guard, and the person is your husband, wife, or unmarried child under 21 years of age); and
  2. Notify U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of any change in your address, within 30 days of change, by filing Form I-865.

What Other Consequences Are There?

If an intending immigrant becomes a LPR based on a Form I-864 that you have signed, then, until your obligations under Form I-864 terminate, the U.S. Government may consider (deem) your income and assets as available to that person, in determining whether he or she is eligible for certain Federal means-tested public benefits and also for state or local means-tested public benefits, if the state or local government’s rules provide for consideration (deeming) of your income and assets as available to the person.

This provision does not apply to public benefits specified in section 403(c) of the Welfare Reform Act, such as emergency Medicaid, short-term, non-cash emergency relief; services provided under the National School Lunch and Child Nutrition Acts; immunizations and testing and treatment for communicable diseases; and means-tested programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

What If I Do Not Fulfill My Obligations?

If you do not provide sufficient support to the person who becomes a lawful permanent resident based on a Form I-864 that you signed, that person may sue you for this support.

If a Federal, state, local, or private agency provided any covered means-tested public benefit to the person who becomes a LPR based on a Form I-864 that you signed, the agency may ask you to reimburse them for the amount of the benefits they provided. If you do not make the reimbursement, the agency may sue you for the amount that the agency believes you owe.

If you are sued, and the court enters a judgment against you, the person or agency that sued you may use any legally permitted procedures for enforcing or collecting the judgement. You may also be required to pay the costs of collection, including attorney fees.

If you do not file a properly completed Form I-865 within 30 days of any change of address, USCIS may impose a civil fine for your failing to do so.

When Will These Obligations End?

Your obligations under a Form I-864 that you signed will end if the person who becomes a LPR based on that affidavit:

  1. Becomes a U.S. citizen;
  2. Has worked, or can receive credit for, 40 quarters of coverage under the Social Security Act;
  3. No longer has LPR status and has departed the United States;
  4. Is subject to removal, but applies for and obtains, in removal proceedings, a new grant of adjustment of status, based on a new affidavit of support, if one is required; or
  5. Dies.

NOTE: Divorce does not terminate your obligations under Form I-864. Because a LPR is not required to become a USC or work, I-864 obligations could conceivably continue for the beneficiary’s entire life.

Table: 2020 Federal Poverty Guidelines and I-864 Threshold Obligations*

Sponsor’s Household Size

100% of HHS Poverty Guidelines

125% of HHS 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






















Add $4,480 for each additional person

Add $5,600 for each additional person

Source: I-864P, 2020 HHS Poverty Guidelines for Affidavit of Support, available at (accessed Aug. 21, 2020).

* Note that these guidelines apply only to sponsor residents of the 48 contiguous states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Separate income guidelines apply to sponsor residents of Alaska and Hawaii, available here.