History of SIJ Status

n 1990, Congress created Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status. In 2008, the Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act made changes to the eligibility requirements for SIJ status and streamlined certain SIJ procedures.

SIJ status is designed for non-U.S. citizen children in the United States who do not have permanent residence and have been abused, neglected or abandoned by one or both parents. For a child to be eligible, a U.S. state juvenile court must: make the child dependent on the court (or place the child under the legal custody of a state agency or other individual appointed by the state); declare that the child cannot be reunited with one or both of his or her parents due to abuse, abandonment or neglect; and declare that it is not in the best interests of the child to be returned to his country of citizenship. (The term “juvenile court” is a court located in the United States having jurisdiction under state law to make judicial determinations about the custody and care of juveniles. The exact name of juvenile courts can differ from state to state.)

Special Immigrant Juvenile status allows a child to apply for a green card (that is, lawful permanent residence) while remaining in the United States.

Under the law, the juvenile court and USCIS have distinct responsibilities. The juvenile court makes factual findings concerning the care and custody of the child. USCIS, however, makes the immigration decision, including eligibility for SIJ status and for a green card

History of SIJ Status

In 1990, Congress created Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status. In 2008, the Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act made changes to the eligibility requirements for SIJ status and streamlined certain SIJ procedures.

SIJ status is designed for non-U.S. citizen children in the United States who do not have permanent residence and have been abused, neglected or abandoned by one or both parents. For a child to be eligible, a U.S. state juvenile court must: make the child dependent on the court (or place the child under the legal custody of a state agency or other individual appointed by the state); declare that the child cannot be reunited with one or both of his or her parents due to abuse, abandonment or neglect; and declare that it is not in the best interests of the child to be returned to his country of citizenship. (The term “juvenile court” is a court located in the United States having jurisdiction under state law to make judicial determinations about the custody and care of juveniles. The exact name of juvenile courts can differ from state to state.)

Special Immigrant Juvenile status allows a child to apply for a green card (that is, lawful permanent residence) while remaining in the United States.

Under the law, the juvenile court and USCIS have distinct responsibilities. The juvenile court makes factual findings concerning the care and custody of the child. USCIS, however, makes the immigration decision, including eligibility for SIJ status and for a green card.

SIJ: After You File

This page gives you information on:

Receipts, Fingerprints and Photographs
Interview Scheduling and Interview Waivers
What to Expect at the Interview
The Decision
Receipts, Fingerprints & Photographs
Receipt

After you file any form, USCIS will either:

Send you a Form I-797C, Notice of Action, which is your receipt showing the official filing date and receipt number
OR
Return your form(s) and supporting documents to you
If your forms are returned to you, USCIS will include a notice explaining why the forms were returned.

Read the notice carefully and correct all the mistakes before you file again.
Fingerprints & Photographs

After you file the Form I-485:

If you are 14 or older, USCIS will send you a notice for an appointment to give fingerprints take photographs (which we call biometrics) at an Application Support Center (also referred to as the ASC)
You must bring a state-issued photo ID, or a passport issued by your country of birth to the appointment
If you also file a Form I 765, we will send you an appointment notice for that form
Remember to bring BOTH notices to the ASC. Bringing only one can delay processing of your green card or your work permit
If you cannot make the appointment, follow the instructions on the appointment notice to ask for a new date and time
IMPORTANT!

If you Then
Cannot make your appointment Follow the instructions on the appointment notice to ask for a new date and time
Do not come to your interview, and do not ask AS SOON AS POSSIBLE for a new appointment Your I-485 might be denied!
Interview Scheduling & Interview Waivers
Scheduling the Interview

As a rule, we interview all SIJ petitioners. If you think you should not be interviewed, please see “Waiving the Interview”, below.

We will interview you in order to make a decision on the Form I-360 and the Form I-485 you file.
We will send you a notice for an interview at your local USCIS field office.
You will have your interview within 180 days of your official filing date.
If you file both forms in the same envelope, we will interview you only once.
Follow the instructions on the appointment notice to ask for a new date and time.
Waiving the Interview

We may waive the interview for special reasons, such as:

An approval after your 18th birthday will mean you would lose a place to live;
You cannot get critical medical care until you get a green card; or
You will lose a scholarship if you do not get your green card in less than 180 days; or
Coming to the USCIS interview would be so extremely difficult that it would be a hardship to you;
OR
Other reasons that you may need an expedited decision.
If you are under 14, we will consider your age when we decide whether or not to waive your interview.
The more complete your petition is, the more likely we are to be able to decide to waive the interview.
At the Interview
At the Interview:

You can bring your attorney or representative with you.
Your attorney or representative must bring a Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative (if it was not already sent with your petition).
We will interview you to:

Confirm the information in your I-360 and I-485,
Answer questions about your criminal history, if any (such as citations, arrests, or convictions),
Explain any other part of your petition that is not clear to us.
If you do not speak English well, you must bring a translator with you.
You must bring a state-issued photo ID, or a passport issued by your country of citizenship.
Anyone you want to come into the interview with you must also have a state-issued photo ID, a U.S. government-issued ID, or a passport issued by their country of citizenship.
IMPORTANT!

If you Then
Cannot make the appointment Follow the instructions on the appointment notice to ask for a new date and time
Do not come to your interview, and do not ask AS SOON AS POSSIBLE for a new appointment Your I-360 or I-485 might be denied!
The Decision

USCIS will make a decision on your I-360 within 180 days from your official filing date. The 180 days begins on the receipt date on your I-797C, Notice of Action.

The 180 days does NOT include the days:
Between the day you miss an appointment and the day of your new appointment;
Between the day we send you a request for evidence (or for a Form I 601) and the date we get the evidence or form.
If a field office interviews you, USCIS will make the decision at the interview, unless:
USCIS has to wait for a clearance, or
You need to submit additional evidence, or
You need to file a Form I 601.
I-360

If USCIS approves your Form I-360 without a Form I 485, USCIS will send you a Form I-797, Approval Notice.
If USCIS denies your Form I-360, USCIS will send you a written decision telling you why we denied it.
USCIS will also tell you how you can appeal the denial.
I-485

If USCIS approves your I-360 petition and I-485 application, USCIS will send you an approval notice, or put a temporary green card stamp in your passport
USCIS will mail you your green card (also called a Permanent Resident Card) in approximately 90 days
If USCIS denies your I-485 application, USCIS will send you a written decision telling you why we denied it
USCIS will also tell you how you can ask USCIS to reconsider the decision.

SIJ Petition Process

This page gives you information on:

SIJ Forms
Fees related to those forms
Fee Waivers
Forms
You must file at least two USCIS forms in order to get an SIJ-based green card:

Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant.
Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
You can file both forms together, or you can file the Form I-360 and wait for a decision until you file the Form I-485. Filing both forms at the same time is usually far quicker than waiting to file the second form.

Exception: If you are in immigration proceedings (if you are scheduled for immigration court), file only the Form I-360.

There are additional forms you may need to file depening on your circumstance. Please see our SIJ: Forms You May Need to File page.

If you want permission to work

File Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization

with your Form I-485, or
after you get the Form I-797C (which shows that your Form I-485 was accepted).
If you want USCIS to waive a ground of ineligibility for a green card

File a Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility,

If you need a waiver, you should include this form with the Form I-485
You can wait to file until after USCIS tells you that you need to file a Form I-601, but that will delay your green card.
How to Check if You Have Latest Version of the Form

Look at the date in the lower right-hand corner of the form.
The version date will be in parentheses like this: (Rev. 00/00/2000)N
Check our website at www.uscis.gov to make sure you have the latest version of the form
Under “Edition Date” on the webpage, you will see the acceptable forms.
Or

Telephone our National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283, and ask for the correct fee, filing location, and form edition date.
You can order the latest forms for free by phone at 1-800-870-3676.
Fees
Fees, filing locations, and the forms can change from time to time. You can make sure you have the right fee, filing location, and form by:

Visiting our Check Filing Fees page
Telephoning the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283, and asking for the correct fee, filing location, and form edition date.
Form Fee
Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant No fee if filed for SIJ status
Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status Fee is lower if you are under 14
Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
No fee if filed with Form I-485
No fee if filed
after a Form I-485 that was filed with a fee
with a copy of Form I-797C showing the I-485 was accepted
Fee for renewals
Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility Fee
Paying the Fee

You must:

Pay with a check or money order from a United States bank or company.
Pay the exact amount of the total of the fees for all the forms you file in the same envelope.
Make the check or money order payable to the “Department of Homeland Security”.
Do NOT send a check or money order if you are asking for a fee waiver.

If Then
You send payment with your fee waiver request USCIS will cash your check to pay the fees
USCIS does not waive your fees USCIS will ask you by mail to send in the fees
USCIS does waive your fees USCIS will send you a Form I-797C, Notice of Action telling you that the fees have been waived
Fee Waivers
There is no filing fee for the Form I-360. But if you cannot afford to pay the filing fees for the other forms:

File a Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver
List ALL the forms that you are filing that you cannot afford to pay, and
That are included in the same envelope.
If Then
You are unable to pay the filing fees File a Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver with supporting documentation.
You send in all of the forms you list on the Form-912 in the same envelope Those forms can be included with the fee waiver request
One fee is waived All fees are waived for forms filed together
You file a Form I-765 after you file the Form I-485 without a fee You must either pay the fee for the I-765 or include a Form I-912, with supporting documentation
You file a Form I-601 after you file the Form I-485 without a fee You must either pay the fee for the I-601 or include a Form I-912, with supporting documentation.

Green Card Based on SIJ Status

Once you have met all the eligibility requirements for SIJ status, you need to establish your eligibility for a green card. You may need to file for a waiver in order to get a green card if you have certain ineligibilities (known as “inadmissibilities”).

For example, you might not qualify for a green card if you are (or were):

A risk to people or property, because of a mental or physical disorder
A prostitute or pimp
A drug addict or abuser
An alien smuggler
However, the law has exceptions. For example, you may receive an exemption if you:

Now get medical treatment that controls a dangerous mental or physical disorder
Were forced into prostitution
Were arrested only once for drugs, and only for 30 grams or less of marijuana
Had smuggled only your parents or brothers/sisters into the United States
In addition, many of the reasons other green card applicants do not qualify might NOT apply to you as an SIJ, such as if you:

Cannot financially support yourself
Are unlawfully present in the United States
Entered the United States by hiding on a boat, airplane, or other transport (as a stowaway)
Do not have a proper visa or passport
USCIS can waive most other disqualifying grounds if you show a good reason for a waiver, such as:

Humanitarian concerns or in the public interest.
In order to request a waiver, file a Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility.

Eligibility Status for SIJ

To petition for SIJ you must have a state court order that contains certain findings, USCIS uses to determine your status. The state court may be called “juvenile court”, “family court”, “orphan’s court”, or some other name, depending on which state it is in. The court must have the authority under state law to decide on the custody and care of children.

Actions State Court Must Take
A state court in the United States must decide:

To declare that you are a dependent of the court or to legally place you with a state agency, a private agency, or a private person and
It is not in your best interests to return to your home country (or the country you last lived in) and
You cannot be reunited with a parent because of ANY of the following:
Abuse
Abandonment
Neglect
Similar reason under state law
Eligibility Requirements
To be eligible for SIJ status:

You must be under 21 years old on the filing date of the Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant
Your state court order must be in effect on the filing date of the Form I-360 and when USCIS makes a decision on your application, unless you “aged out” of the state court’s jurisdiction due to no fault of your own
You cannot be married, both when you file your application and when USCIS makes a decision on your application
“Not married” includes a child whose marriage ended because of:
Annulment
Divorce
Death
You must be inside the United States at the time of filing the Form I-360
If you are in the legal custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):

You must request permission from HHS for the court to legally place you somewhere else
You do not need to request permission from HHS if the state court does not place you somewhere else

Child Status Protection Act (CSPA)

The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) amended the Immigration Nationality Act (INA) by changing who qualifies as a child for purposes of immigrant. This permits certain beneficiaries (see the glossary for a definition of the term “beneficiary”) to retain classification as a “child,” even if he or she has reached the age of 21.

Age Out
A “child” is defined as an individual who is unmarried and under the age of 21. Before CSPA took effect on August 6, 2002, a beneficiary who turned 21 at any time prior to receiving permanent residence could not be considered a child for immigration purposes. This situation is described as “aging out.” Congress recognized that many beneficiaries were aging out because of large backlogs and long processing times for visa petitions. CSPA is designed to protect a beneficiary’s immigration classification as a child when he or she ages out due to excessive processing times. CSPA can protect “child” status for family-based immigrants, employment-based immigrants, and some humanitarian program immigrants (refugees, asylees, VAWA).

How to Qualify for CSPA
Immediate Relative

Preference Classification for Permanent Residence or Derivative

If the petition (Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative) was filed by a U.S. citizen parent for his or her child, the beneficiary’s age “freezes” on the date of filing.
If the petition (Form I-130) was filed by a permanent resident parent and the parent naturalizes before the beneficiary turns 21, the beneficiary’s age “freezes” on the date the petitioner naturalized.
CSPA allows the time a visa petition was pending to be subtracted from the beneficiary’s biological age at the time of visa availability so that the applicant is not penalized for the time in which USCIS did not adjudicate the petition.

Eligibility Criteria
Must be the beneficiary of a pending or approved visa petition on or after August 6, 2002.
The beneficiary must not have had a final decision on an application for adjustment of status or an immigrant visa before August 6, 2002.
The child must “seek to acquire” permanent residence within 1 year of a visa becoming available. USCIS interprets “seek to acquire” as having a Form I-824, Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition, filed on the child’s behalf or the filing of a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, or submit Form DS-230, Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration from the Department of State. The date of visa availability means the first day of the first month a visa in the appropriate category was listed as available in the Department of State’s visa bulletin or the date the visa petition was approved, whichever is later.
Note: Individuals may be eligible to apply for permanent residence under CSPA after 1 year of a visa becoming available if all of the following are true:

They are a beneficiary of a visa petition that was approved prior to August 6, 2002
They had not received a final decision on an application for permanent residence based or immigrant visa on that visa petition prior to August 6, 2002
The visa became available on or after August 7, 2001
They met all of the other eligibility requirements for CSPA (see above)
Opt-Out
CSPA provides another type of relief referred to as the “opt-out.” This is very limited in scope. If a permanent resident petitioner filed a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for an unmarried son/daughter and then the petitioner naturalized, the beneficiary can choose to remain in the second preference classification instead of automatically converting to a 1st preference classification. The reason that this may be beneficial is that sometimes the waiting time for the second preference visa is shorter than the waiting time for the first preference visa. If this situation applies, check the visa bulletin (see link to the right) to see if the opt-out may be helpful. If the beneficiary wants to opt-out, he or she must make a request in writing to USCIS.

Refugee and Asylee Protections
CSPA provides protections for refugee and asylee children who aged out on or after August 6, 2002. The child must remain unmarried to benefit from CSPA protection.

Derivatives
The child’s age is determined based on the time the parent’s Form I-589, Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, or Form I-590, Registration for Classification as a Refugee, was filed. After August 6, 2002, as long as the child was unmarried and under 21 at the time either of these forms was filed, and the child was listed on the Form I-589 or I-590, the child will remain a “child” regardless of age and can continue adjustment of status or consular processing on that basis.

Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition, and Section 209 Adjustment
For Forms I-730 or I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence and Adjust Status, (under Section 209) that were pending on or after August 6, 2002, the child’s age is determined by using the age on the date the principal filed Form I-589 or Form I-590, as long as the child was unmarried and under 21 at that time and remains unmarried

Public Charge

Q. What is a public charge and when does it apply?

A. For purposes of determining inadmissibility, “public charge” means an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.

A number of factors must be considered when making a determination that a person is likely to become a public charge.

Under Section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), an individual seeking admission to the United States or seeking to adjust status to that of an individual lawfully admitted for permanent residence (green card) is inadmissible if the individual, “at the time of application for admission or adjustment of status, is likely at any time to become a public charge.” Public charge does not apply in naturalization proceedings. If an individual is inadmissible, admission to the United States or adjustment of status is not granted.

Q. How is it determined whether someone is likely to become a public charge for admission or adjustment purposes?

A. Inadmissibility based on the public charge ground is determined by the totality of the circumstances. This means that the adjudicating officer must weigh both the positive and negative factors when determining the likelihood that someone might become a public charge. At a minimum, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer must consider the following factors when making a public charge determination:

Age
Health
Family status
Assets
Resources
Financial status
Education and skills
The officer may also consider any affidavit of support filed on behalf of the individual under Section 213A of the INA. Presence or absence of a single factor cannot be the sole criteria for determining inadmissibility as a public charge, (unless that factor is the absence or insufficiency of an affidavit of support when required by the laws and regulations governing a specific immigration benefit, such as certain family-based adjustment of status applications).

In assessing the totality of the circumstances, including the statutory factors above, an officer may consider the individual’s receipt of certain publicly funded benefits. Not all publicly funded benefits are relevant to deciding whether someone is likely to become a public charge. When determining whether someone is likely to become a public charge, USCIS will consider whether the individual is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense. Short-term institutionalization for rehabilitation is not subject to public charge consideration under existing field guidance. Non-cash benefits that USCIS does not consider are discussed in greater detail below.

Q. What publicly funded benefits may be considered for public charge purposes?

A. Cash assistance for income maintenance and institutionalization for long-term care at government expense may be considered for public charge purposes. However, receipt of such benefits must still be considered in the context of the totality of the circumstances before a person will be deemed inadmissible on public charge grounds.

Public benefits that are received by one member of a family are also not attributed to other family members for public charge purposes unless the cash benefits amount to the sole support of the family.

Acceptance of the following types of assistance may lead to the determination that the individual is likely to become a public charge:

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of Social Security Act

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance (part A of Title IV of the Social Security Act–the successor to the AFDC program) (Note: Non cash benefits under TANF such as subsidized child care or transit subsidies cannot be considered and non-recurrent cash payments for crisis situations cannot be considered for evidence of public charge)
State and local cash assistance programs that provide benefits for income maintenance (often called “General Assistance” programs)
Programs (including Medicaid) supporting individuals who are institutionalized for long-term care (e.g., in a nursing home or mental health institution). (Note: costs of incarceration for prison are not considered for public charge determinations)
This is not an exhaustive list of the types of cash benefits that could lead to a determination that a person is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, and thus, a public charge. Receipt of any such cash benefits not listed above will continue to be assessed under the “totality of the circumstances” analysis described above.

Q. What publicly funded benefits may not be considered for public charge purposes?
A. Non-cash benefits (other than institutionalization for long-term care) are generally not taken into account for purposes of a public charge determination.

Special-purpose cash assistance is also generally not taken into account for purposes of public charge determination.

Non-cash or special-purpose cash benefits are generally supplemental in nature and do not make a person primarily dependent on the government for subsistence. Therefore, past, current, or future receipt of these benefits do not impact a public charge determination. Non-cash or special purpose cash benefits that are not considered for public charge purposes include:

Medicaid and other health insurance and health services (including public assistance for immunizations and for testing and treatment of symptoms of communicable diseases; use of health clinics, short-term rehabilitation services, and emergency medical services) other than support for long-term institutional care
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
Nutrition programs, including Food Stamps, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program, and other supplementary and emergency food assistance programs
Housing benefits
Child care services
Energy assistance, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Emergency disaster relief
Foster care and adoption assistance
Educational assistance (such as attending public school), including benefits under the Head Start Act and aid for elementary, secondary, or higher education
Job training programs
In-kind, community-based programs, services, or assistance (such as soup kitchens, crisis counseling and intervention, and short-term shelter)
State and local programs that are similar to the federal programs listed above are also generally not considered for public charge purposes. Please be aware that states may adopt different names for the same or similar publicly funded programs. It is the underlying nature of the program, not the name adopted in a particular state, which determines whether or not it should be considered for public charge purposes. In California, for example, Medicaid is called “Medi-Cal” and CHIP is called “Healthy Families.” These benefits are not considered for public charge purposes.

In addition, and consistent with existing practice, cash payments that have been earned, such as Title II Social Security benefits, government pensions, and veterans’ benefits, among other forms of earned benefits, do not support a public charge determination. Unemployment compensation is also not considered for public charge purposes.

Q. Am I required to file an affidavit of support?

A. Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, is a form that a qualified individual (a sponsor) files on your behalf when you are applying for a green card or immigrant visa under certain family-related provisions. The purpose of the form is to show that you have the financial means to live in the United States without needing welfare or financial benefits from the U.S. government. The law requires that the sponsor demonstrate that he or she is able to assist you financially. The sponsor must show that he or she has an annual income of not less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level. The federal poverty guidelines are set once a year, and can be found on Form I-864P, Poverty Guidelines.

The following individuals are required to file an Affidavit of Support completed by their sponsor:

Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (including orphans)
All family based preference categories:
First Preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens (Adult means 21 years of age or older)
Second Preference: Spouses of permanent residents and the unmarried sons and daughters (regardless of age) of permanent residents and their unmarried children
Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, their spouses and their unmarried minor children
Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens, their spouses and their unmarried minor children
Employment based immigrants who will work for a relative or for a firm in which a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident relative holds a 5 percent or more ownership interest
Failure to file a qualifying Affidavit of Support showing sufficient income levels, when required, makes you inadmissible under Section 212(a)(4) of the INA. Note: Individuals whom the USCIS has approved as self-petitioning widows or widowers or battered spouses and children are exempt from filing an Affidavit of Support but must still file Form I-864W, Intending Immigrant’s Affidavit of Support Exemption.

For more information, see the “Affidavit of Support” link to the left.

Q. Does public charge apply to me?

A. For benefits adjudicated by USCIS, whether a person is likely to become a public charge is usually considered when someone is trying to become a permanent resident (get a green card). It is also considered when someone applies for certain non-immigrant or other temporary benefits, for example by extending non-immigrant status within the United States.

There are certain groups of people who are either exempt from public charge, or may get a waiver for public charge when applying for a green card or other benefits with USCIS. These include:

Refugees
Asylum applicants
Refugees and asylees applying for adjustment to permanent resident status
Amerasian Immigrants (for their initial admission)
Individuals granted relief under the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA)
Individuals granted relief under the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA)
Individuals granted relief under the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA)
Individuals applying for a T Visa
Individuals applying for a U Visa
Individuals who possess a T visa and are trying to become a permanent resident (get a green card)
Individuals who possess a U visa and are trying to become a permanent resident (get a green card)
Applicants for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
Certain applicants under the LIFE Act Provisions
Q. What if I am in removal proceedings or at a Port of Entry?

A. For information on public charge determinations in removal proceedings and at ports of entry, refer to the complete Field Guidance for Deportability and Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds; 64 FR 28689 (May 26, 1999) (see “Guidance on Public Charge” link to the right).

Q. How can I learn more about public charge?

A. For the complete published policy on public charge refer to the Published Policy on Public Charge: INA Sections 212(a)(4) and 237(a)(5) (see “Guidance on Public Charge” link to the right).

Affidavit of Support

Affidavit of Support

What is an Affidavit of Support?

An affidavit of support is a document an individual signs to accept financial responsibility for another person, usually a relative, who is coming to the United States to live permanently. The person who signs the affidavit of support becomes the sponsor of the relative (or other individual) coming to live in the United States. The sponsor is usually the petitioner of an immigrant petition for a family member.

An affidavit of support is legally enforceable; the sponsor’s responsibility usually lasts until the family member or other individual either becomes a U.S. citizen, or can be credited with 40 quarters of work (usually 10 years).

The law concerning affidavits of support is found in Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sections 212(a)(4) and 213A. The provisions are codified in Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 8 CFR 213a.

Submitting an Affidavit of Support

The following individuals are required by law to submit a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, completed by the petitioner to obtain an immigrant visa or adjustment of status:

All immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (which include parents, spouses, and unmarried children under the age of 21, including orphans) and relatives who qualify for immigration to the United States under one of the family based preferences:
First Preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens (Adult means 21 years of age or older)
Second Preference: Spouses of permanent residents and the unmarried sons and daughters (regardless of age) of permanent residents and their unmarried children
Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, their spouses and their unmarried minor children
Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens, their spouses and their unmarried minor children
Employment based preference immigrants in cases only when a U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative filed the immigrant visa petition, or such relative has a significant ownership interest (5% or more) in the entity that filed the petition.
Note: An individual listed above does not need to submit an affidavit of support if they can show that they EITHER:

Already worked 40 qualifying quarters as defined in Title II of the Social Security Act
Can be credited with 40 qualifying quarters as defined in Title II of the Social Security Act
Are the child of a U.S. citizen and if admitted for permanent residence on or after February 27, 2001, would automatically acquire citizenship under Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended by the Child Citizenship Act of 2000
When NOT to Submit an Affidavit of Support

The following types of people do not need to file an affidavit of support:

An individual who has earned or can be credited with 40 qualifying quarters (credits) of work in the United States
An individual who has an approved Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, as a Self-Petitioning Widow or Widower
An individual who has an approved Form I-360 as a battered spouse or child
Orphans adopted by U.S. citizens abroad if a full and formal adoption takes place before the orphan acquires permanent residence and both adoptive parents have seen the child before or during the adoption
Affidavit of Support For Fiancé(e), Spouse, or Child as a “K” Nonimmigrant

If your relative is either a “K-1” fiancé(e), a “K-3” spouse, or a “K-2” or “K-4” child of fiancé(e) or spouse, you do not need to submit an affidavit of support at the time you file your Form I-129F petition. Instead, you should submit an affidavit of support at the time that your fiancé(e), spouse, or child adjusts status to permanent resident after coming to the United States.

Sponsor for Affidavit of Support

If you filed an immigrant visa petition for your relative, you must be the sponsor. You must also be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. You must have a domicile in the United States or a territory or possession of the United States. Usually, this requirement means you must actually live in the United States, or a territory or possession, in order to be a sponsor. If you live abroad, you may still be eligible to be a sponsor if you can show that your residence abroad is temporary, and that you still have your domicile in the United States.

Section 213A of the INA permits both a “joint sponsor” and a “substitute sponsor” in certain cases.

Joint Sponsor

A joint sponsor is someone who is willing to accept legal responsibility for supporting your family member with you. A joint sponsor must meet all the same requirements as you, except the joint sponsor does not need to be related to the immigrant. The joint sponsor (or the joint sponsor and his or her household) must reach the 125% income requirement alone. You cannot combine your income with that of a joint sponsor to meet the income requirement.

Substitute Sponsor

If the visa petitioner has died after approval of the visa petition but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) decides to let the petition continue, a substitute sponsor must file a Form I-864 in place of the deceased visa petitioner. In order to be a “substitute sponsor,” you must be related to the intending immigrant in one of the following ways:

Spouse
Parent
Mother-in-law
Father-in-law
Sibling
Child (if at least 18 years of age)
Son
Daughter
Son-in-law
Daughter-in-law
Sister-in-law
Brother-in-law
Grandparent
Grandchild
Legal guardian of the beneficiary
You must also:

Be U.S. citizen or national or a permanent resident
Be at least 18 years of age
Be domiciled (live) in the United States
Meet all of the financial requirements of a sponsor pursuant to INA 213A
The substitute sponsor assumes all of the obligations of an I-864 sponsor.

How to File an Affidavit of Support

You, the sponsor, should complete Form I-864 when your relative has been scheduled for an immigrant visa interview with a consular officer overseas or when your relative is about to submit an application for adjustment to permanent resident status with the USCIS or with an Immigration Court in the United States. If you have a joint sponsor, they must also complete Form I-864. If you are using the income of other household members to qualify, then each household member who is accepting legal responsibility for supporting your relative must complete a separate Form I-864A, Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member.

You are required to provide your U.S. federal income tax return for the most recent tax year as well as proof of current employment. If you were not required to file a tax return in any of these years you must provide an explanation. Failure to provide the tax return or evidence establishing that you were not required to file will delay action on your relative’s application for permanent residence. If this information is not provided, this will result in denial of an immigrant visa or adjustment of status.

When you have completed the affidavit of support, compiled the necessary documentation, and had the affidavit notarized in the United States or before a U.S. consular or immigration officer, you should provide this packet of information to your relative to submit with his or her application for permanent resident status. If you are given specific instructions to file your affidavit of support directly with the National Visa Center, you should follow those instructions.

Income Requirements

You also must meet certain income requirements (whether you are a sponsor, a joint sponsor, or a substitute sponsor). You must show that your household income is equal to or higher than 125% of the U.S. poverty level for your household size. (Your household size includes you, your dependents, any relatives living with you, and the immigrants you are sponsoring.)

If you, the sponsor, are on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States, and the immigrant you are sponsoring is your spouse or child, your income only needs to equal 100% of the U.S. poverty level for your household size.

To see if you are above the poverty level, see the “Form I-864P” link to the right.

If You Can’t Meet the Minimum Income Requirements
If you cannot meet the minimum income requirements using your earned income, you have various options:

You may add the cash value of your assets. This includes money in savings accounts, stocks, bonds, and property. To determine the amount of assets required to qualify, subtract your household income from the minimum income requirement (125% of the poverty level for your family size). You must prove the cash value of your assets is worth five times this difference (the amount left over).
Exceptions:
If the person being sponsored is a spouse, or son/daughter (who is 18 years or older) of a U.S. citizen: The minimum cash value of assets must be three times the difference between the sponsor’s household income and 125% of the federal poverty guide line for the household.
If the person being sponsored is an orphan coming to the United States for adoption: The adoptive parents’ assets need to equal or exceed the difference between the household income and 125% of the federal poverty line for the household size.
You may count the income and assets of members of your household who are related to you by birth, marriage, or adoption. To use their income you must have listed them as dependents on your most recent federal tax return or they must have lived with you for the last 6 months. They must also complete a Form I-864A, Contract between Sponsor and Household Member. If the relative you are sponsoring meets these criteria you may include the value of their income and assets, but the immigrant does not need to complete Form I-864A unless he or she has accompanying family members.
You may count the assets of the relatives you are sponsoring.
Responsibilities as a Sponsor

When you sign the affidavit of support, you accept legal responsibility for financially supporting the sponsored immigrant(s) generally until they become U.S. citizens or can be credited with 40 quarters of work. Your obligation also ends if you or the individual sponsored dies or if the individual sponsored ceases to be a permanent resident and departs the United States.

Note: Divorce does NOT end the sponsorship obligation.

If the individual you sponsored receives any “means-tested public benefits,” you are responsible for repaying the cost of those benefits to the agency that provided them. If you do not repay the debt, the agency can sue you in court to get the money owed. Any joint sponsors or household members whose income is used to meet the minimum income requirements are also legally responsible for financially supporting the sponsored immigrant.

Change of Address

If you change your address after you become a sponsor, you are required by law to notify the USCIS within 30 days by filing Form I-865, Sponsor’s Notice of Change of Address. If you fail to notify the USCIS of your change of address, you may be fined.

Finding a Medical Doctor

Medical examinations in the United States are typically required for adjustment of status (such as green card) cases (Form I-485), and may also be required for requests for “V” nonimmigrant status (Form I-539). If you are required to undergo an immigration medical exam, see the following table to find an approved doctor near you:

If you are… then:
in the United States, The immigration medical exam must be conducted by a physician approved by USCIS (also known as a “civil surgeon”). To find an approved doctor near you, see the USCIS Civil Surgeons Locator or call our National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.
abroad, The immigration medical exam mnust be conducted by a physician designated by the U.S. Department of State (also known as a “panel physician”). See the Department of State website to find an approved doctor near you.
Medical Examination Fees
USCIS does not regulate the fees charged by civil surgeons for the completion of a medical examination. Rates vary by physician.

Completing Medical Forms
Print out and bring the most recent version of Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, to your medical exam appointment: Fill out Part 1 of Form I-693 but do not sign until the civil surgeon instructs you to do so. The civil surgeon will use Form I-693 to document the results of your medical exam.

The designated civil surgeon will complete and sign Form I-693,and seal the form and any supporting documents in an envelope. You must submit the sealed envelope to USCIS as directed in the Form I-693 instructions.

IMPORTANT: Do not break the seal or open this envelope. USCIS will not accept Form I-693 if it is not in a sealed envelope or if the envelope is altered in any way.

Civil Surgeons’ Responsibilities and Requirements
For more information on civil surgeons’ responsibilities, requirements and how civil surgeons can find instruction on how to best perform immigration exams, see our Currently Designated Civil Surgeons page.