One of the most common forms that our clients in New Jersey often get confused with is the Affidavit of Support. The confusion is understandable. Actually, there are two Affidavits of Support: the I-134 and I-864. Both are intended to assure the government that a foreign national will not become a "public charge," or someone who will become primarily dependent on the US government for subsistence and support. (Usually, this means receiving cash assistance for income maintenance such as welfare and food stamps, or depending on programs intended to support individuals institutionalized for long-term care, such as Medicaid.) The I-134 is normally submitted in connection with non-immigrant visa applications, such as visitor's visas (B1/B2 visas) or fiancé visas (K-1). On the other hand, the I-864 is typically submitted for applications in which someone is seeking permanent residence such as immediate relatives of US Citizens and other family-based immigrants. Of the two, the I-864 is by far the more complicated and exhaustive. However, they are both contracts with the United States Government in which the sponsor is agreeing to be jointly and severally liable to repay certain benefits that the traveling applicant may receive.
Another source of confusion regarding these forms, especially for our Indian clients in New Jersey, is that certain terms of art are being confused with certain concepts. A "sponsorship letter" within the context of a visitor's visa is a typical example. Given how strict the consulate in Mumbai (Bombay) can be these days, it is not uncommon for an applicant for a visitor's visa to be rejected and asked to reapply with a "sponsorship letter." Now this can mean one of two things: 1) an invitation letter written by a relative or friend sponsoring the person to come here for a temporary visit or 2) an affidavit of support. In order to avoid these potentially confusing situations, we suggest that applicants for visitor's visa include both in their packages. The invitation letter, if applicable, justifies and explains why the person is coming, while the affidavit of support (I-134) assures the consular officer that the visitor will not come here and use financial resources to which he/she is not entitled to.