In many different types of cases, USCIS will require an Affidavit of Support for an individual to qualify for a visa or green card. This can sometimes cause confusion because there are actually two different types of affidavits of support: there is Form I-134 and Form I-864. We have already covered the different aspects and issues raised by the Affidavit of Support in numerous articles found on the blog. The focus of this entry will be on the I-134 and its relationship to the visitor's visa (B1/B2).
Is It Required?
No, technically speaking, the I-134 is not a requirement for someone to qualify for a visitor's visa. Nevertheless, we ordinarily prepare one on behalf of the person inviting the foreign national for a visit because the affidavit does strengthen the application and hence, increase the chances of the person receiving the visa. Whenever someone applies for a visitor's visa, the primary issue is always whether that person will return to his native country. However, an equally important consideration for the consular officers to consider is whether the person will come here and be a public charge-in other words, a financial burden to the US government. The I-134 affidavit of support addresses that concern and helps to assure the consulate that there is a responsible party in the US who is willing and financially able to vouch for the visitor during the duration of his/her stay.
Who Qualifies to Sign The Affidavit?
A US Citizen, Lawful Permanent Resident, or lawfully admitted non-immigrant may sign the I-134. For lawfully admitted non-immigrants, this would presumably apply to those who are legally here for an extended period of time, such as those who hold H-1B or L-1 status.
Is There An Amount That I Have To Show?
Unlike the I-864, which is the affidavit of support used in connection with immigrant visa cases, there is no financial amount or monetary threshold that the person must meet in order to execute the affidavit. However, the two page form is quite detailed in terms of setting out a clear picture of the person's financial status: besides asking the person to disclose his/her annual income, there are also questions relating to assets, worth of personal property, life insurance, and equity in real estate.
While a person who signs the I-134 may not necessarily incur the same level of obligation as a person who executes the I-864, he/she is nevertheless signing a contract with the US government. The instructions explicitly state: "under section 213 of the Act, if the person you are sponsoring becomes a public charge, the agency that provides assistance may be able to sue you to recover the cost of the assistance." Whether a foreign national visitor will legally qualify for public benefits is an entirely different issue, but the sponsor would be liable for reimbursement if payment was made out to the alien.
I-134 Does Not Guarantee Success
Of course, the best I-134 will not ensure the grant of a visitor's visa if the applicant cannot establish non-immigrant intent, that is, that the person will return to his/her native country and not overstay in the US. It is only one piece of a properly assembled and thoughtfully prepared visitor's visa application.