DHS issued a proposed rule last week that purportedly will make it easier to hold affidavit of support sponsors more accountable, but in practice will likely make the process more onerous, discouraging and deterring petitioners from executing the I-864. And since the I-864 Affidavit of Support is required in most cases, especially family-based petitions, the absence of one can prove fatal to a case.
Among some of the salient changes, USCIS is proposing to alter the definition of “household income” by essentially eliminating household member joint sponsors. Under the rule, household income will be limited to the income of the sponsor, the sponsor’s spouse, and under limited circumstances, the intending immigrant (if the intending immigrant is either the sponsor’s spouse or has the same principal residence as the sponsor, and the preponderance of the evidence shows that the intending immigrant’s income is authorized and derived from a lawful source which will continue after permanent residence is acquired). In other words, the sponsor would no longer be able to combine the income of family members living in the same household who are willing to undertake the same financial obligations that the sponsor is incurring. In short, no more I-864As, which can have a tremendous impact. In our own experience, a lot of our clients do not make sufficient income on their own, but do meet the requirements with the help of their sons and daughters who earn money and who are willing to sign an affidavit of support.
Another important requirement proposed by the rule is that sponsors will be required to furnish certified credit reports and credit scores; certified copies or official IRS transcripts of their last three years income tax returns; and bank account information as part of the process. These documentary requirements extend to household members as well who execute the I-864A, such as spouses. This is a big change given that under the current practice, sponsors are only required to submit a tax return copy for the most recent year, while still indicating the tax information for the prior two years on the form. USCIS asserts that such information will give a more complete picture of the sponsor’s financial circumstances—even though, as previously mentioned, all of the relevant information is on the form itself (unless there is some sort of insinuation that sponsors are lying under oath and misrepresenting information that is not reflected on their tax returns?) Moreover, allowing officers to scour credit reports and scores invites an unwarranted fishing expedition into a sponsor’s spending habits and lifestyle which is not directly relevant to the issue. The same goes for the sponsor’s bank account information, which also seems invasive.
Additionally, any petitioning sponsor who has received means-tested public benefits within the last 36 months of submitting an I-864 (or who has defaulted) must also recruit a joint sponsor who has received no such public benefits during that time to bolster his/her application. With all these burdensome requirements, prospective sponsors may be discouraged from participating in the process.
Comments on these proposed changes are due by November 2, 2020. The above is general information only. It is not specific legal advice nor intended to create an attorney client relationship. If you need advice, please consult with an attorney.