Each foriegn national applying for U.S. permanent residency, commonly referred to as a Green Card, is called the Beneficiary and needs to have a financial sponsor also known as the Petitioner . This requirement applies to all family-based immigrants.
- For Example: If you are a foreign citizen married to a U.S. citizen, your U.S. citizen spouse is the Petitioner. You are the Beneficiary.
The Petitioner needs to provide proof to the U.S. government that they meet the minimum income requirements.
- These income requirements get updated each year in March – April. You can find the latest income requirements for 2023 here.
- The minimum income requirements, called Poverty Guidelines, will depend on the Petitioner’s household size and the state where they reside.
- For Example: If the Petitioner is married, has 2 children under the age of 21, lives in Arizona and sponsors 1 immigrant, then the Poverty Guidelines in 2023 will be $43,925.
- In this example, the petitioner’s household size is 5 total (the sponsor, sponsor’s spouse, sponsor’s 2 minor children and 1 immigrant).
- If the Petitioner is on active duty in the U.S. military the Poverty Guidelines will be lower.
We have provided detailed guides discussing everything you need to know about Form I-864 here.
In this guide, we will be focusing on situations when the Petitioner cannot meet the Poverty Guidelines and a financial co-sponsor, or a “Joint Sponsor” is required.
What is a Joint Sponsor?
A Joint Sponsor, is a U.S. citizen or Green Card Holder permanently residing in the U.S. who is willing to become a co-sponsor and help the Petitioner meet the Poverty Guidelines.
If a Petitioner does not meet the Poverty Guidelines, the intending immigrant’s green card or immigrant visa application cannot be approved.
The Joint Sponsor doesn’t need to be related to the Petitioner or Beneficiary. Any U.S. citizen or permanent resident who meets the Poverty Guidelines and is residing in the U.S. permanently, can become a Joint Sponsor.
A Joint Sponsor must be a person and may not be a corporation, organization, or other entity.
The Joint Sponsor will need to sign Form I-864 and submit supporting documents with the form. The Joint Sponsor’s Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) is submitted at the same time as the main Petitioner’s documents.
- For Example: If your Petitioner doesn’t meet the Poverty Guidelines and you need a Joint Sponsor, each sponsor must submit Form I-864 and the supporting documents.
Even if your Petitioner cannot show the minimum income, he or she still needs to file Form I-864, along with tax return(s), W-2 forms, and 1099 forms.
Do You Need a Joint Sponsor?
The Petitioner’s household income should be equal to or higher than 125% of the U.S. poverty level for the Petitioner’s household size.
If the Petitioner is on active duty in the U.S. military, then the household income should be equal to or higher than 100% of the U.S. poverty level.
There are other options to meet the Poverty Guidelines besides getting a Joint Sponsor.
- The Petitioner can also use assets to meet the financial requirements.
- The Petitioner can also use the income and assets of the Petitioner’s household members who are related to the Petitioner by birth, marriage, or adoption.
- Note, family members must reside with the Petitioner to be a qualifying household member.
- In order to use their income, the Joint Sponsor must have them listed as dependents on their most recent federal income tax return, or must have lived with them for the last 6 months.
- The Joint Sponsor may also include any adult they claimed as a dependent but did not live with them.
Household members are also required to complete and sign Form I-864A, Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member and submit it with the joint sponsor’s Form I-864.
If the Petitioner still does not meet the Poverty Guidelines, then obtaining a Joint Sponsor is mandatory.
You can find more information about income and asset requirements here by location for different household sizes.
Who can Become a Joint Sponsor?
A common misconception is that a Joint Sponsor must be related to the Petitioner or the Beneficiary. This is completely false! A family friend, or neighbor may become a Joint Sponsor.
Joint Sponsor Requirements:
- A U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident (Green Card Holder), or a U.S. national,
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Currently living (Domiciled) in the United States, its territories, or possessions
- Meet the minimum annual income of 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for the total household size.
- Be willing to financially support the Beneficiary seeking a Green Card.
The Joint Sponsor must fill out a separate Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA and provide supporting documents.
Note, the Petitioner must ALSO complete and submit a signed Form I-864 for the Beneficiary even if a Joint Sponsor will be used.
Even if one or more Joint Sponsors are supporting the Beneficiary’s application, the Main Petitioner remains liable for the financial support of the Beneficiary along with the Joint Sponsor(s).
Minimum Income Requirements for a Joint Sponsor
The Joint Sponsors’ independent income must be equal to 125% of the federal poverty level.
You may have two Joint Sponsors maximum.
A Joint Sponsors must be able to meet the income requirements for all Beneficiaries he or she is sponsoring, without combining resources with the Petitioner or a second Joint Sponsors.
A Joint Sponsor may use the following types of income: wages and salaries, retirement benefits, and alimony.
You may check out our guide to income requirements for more information.
What are Joint Sponsor’s Responsibilities?
A Joint Sponsor’s role is to assure the U.S. government that the Beneficiary will not become a ‘public charge‘, which means they will be financially stable and not utilize government benefits (i.e. welfare, food stamps, etc.), if the Beneficiary is to receive a Green Card.
Providing Financial Assistance
- By signing Form I-864, a Joint Sponsor becomes liable for financially supporting the intending immigrant.
- This means the joint sponsor is equally responsible as the petitioner for public benefits used by the immigrant.
Compensation on Using Public Benefits
- If the Green Card holder receives public benefits from a federal, state, or local government agency before the termination of a Joint Sponsor’s obligations, the Joint Sponsor along with the Petitioner will have to repay the amount to the respective government agency.
Not all public benefits are considered “public charge” which means some benefits can be used by immigrants without negatively affecting the Petitioner or Joint Sponsor.
We have covered the Public Charge rule in detail in this guide.
Regularly Updating your Address
Until the Joint Sponsor’s obligations end, he/she must continuously update their address with the USCIS.
As a Joint Sponsor, you are required to update address with the USCIS each time you move by filing Form I-865, or Sponsor’s Notice of Change of Address, within 30 days after address change.
When will the Joint Sponsor’s Obligations End?
The Joint Sponsor’s obligations ends when one of the following events happen:
- The Beneficiary becomes a U.S. citizen
- The Beneficiary has worked 10 full years in the U.S.
- The Beneficiary leaves the U.S. and no longer has permanent residence, officially known as ‘abandonment of permanent residence‘
- The Beneficiary dies
- The Beneficiary Is deported and returns to the U.S. under a new sponsor.
- The Joint Sponsor dies
Joint Sponsor’s Checklist of Documents
The documents required for a Joint Sponsor are the same as those required for the Petitioner:
- Proof of income (tax returns and W-2s)
- Proof of U.S. citizenship or green card holder status (green card, unexpired U.S. passport, U.S. birth certificate)
- Proof of U.S. domicile (pay stubs for the last 12 months, mortgage statements for the last 12 months, recent lease agreements, U.S. bank statements for the last 12 months, school records, voting in local, State, or Federal elections);
- If relevant, Form I-864A completed by each household member who will combine their income and/or assets with the joint sponsors to meet the minimum annual income requirement.