Over the last year, there has been alarming uptick of consular cases denied on public charge grounds. Under this ground, a visa may be refused if the “applicant is likely, at any time after admission, to become primarily dependent on the US Government (federal, state, or local) for subsistence. Under new Department of State guidelines, the Affidavit of Support, in and of itself-even where the petitioner meets 125% of the poverty guideline level-is no longer dispositive. While a strong affidavit may serve as a positive factor, a whole host of other factors should be taken into consideration by the consular officer, including the visa applicant’s “age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, and skills.”
When it comes to the affidavit of support, many sponsors are understandably concerned about their wages and often ask how much “bank balance” is required, or whether they can add their bank balance to their wages to alleviate any public charge concerns. Unfortunately, the I-864 applies a calculus commonly misunderstood by the public. Essentially, assets may be considered so long as an officer “is convinced that the monetary value of the asset could reasonably be made available to support the sponsored immigrant and converted to cash within one year without undue harm to the sponsor or his or her family members.” As such, the assets must be liquid, such as money in the bank, stocks, bonds, as well as property. Moreover, the value of the assets must amount to at least five times the difference between your household income and the current poverty guideline level required for the sponsor’s household size. In cases where the petitioner is a US Citizen and filing for a spouse or minor child, the assets must equal three times the difference.
So, in short, there is no simple, generic answer to “how much bank balance do I need?” One must carefully calculate the household size of the sponsor, compare it the amount listed on the I-864P, assess the difference, and then determine whether the value of the assets is equivalent to three or five times that number. But as mentioned previously, meeting the affidavit of support no longer guarantees that the financial issues have been resolved. Moreover, as a practical matter, consular officers have notoriously misunderstood the use of assets in many cases and erroneously refused visas.
Given the increased emphasis and strict application of the public charge grounds, sponsors required to complete an affidavit of support should consult with legal counsel.