One often-overlooked requirement of the affidavit of support is that the petitioner maintain a domicile in the United States. This issue comes into play when the petitioner, usually a United States Citizen, is living abroad and does not currently live or reside in the US.
What is Domicile?
Domicile is a legal term of art that refers to an individual's place of permanent residence. In other words, it is a person's primary or principal home, even if he/she is not physically there at the time. For example, a person may be domiciled in New Jersey but temporarily in California for a temporary work assignment. Even though the person is physically in California, he still pays rent, files taxes from, and will eventually return to New Jersey after the stint is done. In that type of situation, New Jersey would most likely be considered the person's domicile.
How to Prove Domicile if not in the US?
This is a fact and circumstance specific inquiry. However, USCIS does look at the following factors in determining whether a person has met the domicile requirement for purposes of the Affidavit of Support.
1. You are employed by a certain organization
If you are performing work for a company that requires you to do work abroad, USCIS may take that into consideration. Qualifying types of employers include:
· US government
· An American institution of research
· A US company engaged in whole or in part in the development of foreign trade and commerce with the US
· A public international organization in which the US participates by treaty or statute
· A religious demonization having a bona fide organization in the US
Note that if this applies to you, you should either consult with or refer directly to the instructions of the I-864, which provides more detail.
2. You are living abroad temporarily
If you consider the United States your domicile, even though you have been living in a foreign country for some time, you will need to demonstrate that your residence abroad is temporarily in nature. USCIS will look at and consider whether you have filed taxes, maintained property and assets during your absence.
3. You intend on re-establishing your domicile in the US
If your residence abroad cannot be considered temporary or attributed to work purposes, you may need to show that you "intend in good faith to reestablish your domicile in the United States no later than the date of the intending immigrant's admission or adjustment of status." What USCIS is looking for is not merely a signed statement or declaration that you will start to live in the US. You need to prove or show "concrete steps" that this is your intention. Acceptable forms of proof may include furnishing a lease, job offer letter, or any other type of evidence that indicates that you will be living here.
The affidavit of support is a fundamental requirement of the immigrant visa process. If either the National Visa Center or the consulate has questions or doubts regarding the petitioner's ability to satisfy the domicile requirement, the person's immigrant visa may be jeopardized. The fact that there is a joint sponsor waiting in the wings does not solve or address this problem because a joint sponsor only supplements or makes up for a petitioner's financial insufficiencies, but not domicile problems.
We hope that you have enjoyed this article and learned at least one new thing or tip that you may not have known. To keep informed about the latest developments in immigration law, please subscribe to our blog feed by clicking on the "Subscribe To This Blog's Feed" button on the left. It is important to understand that the above is only general information and not legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship nor should it be relied upon as legal advice. The law is extremely fact and circumstance sensitive. For an individual legal analysis of your specific legal case, please complete the "Case Evaluation" box to the right of the screen to get in touch with one of our attorneys.