To be eligible for a marriage-based green card, the sponsoring spouse (a U.S. citizen or green card holder) must accept financial responsibility for the spouse who is seeking the green card (the “beneficiary”). For more background, check out our article explaining the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864).
The sponsoring spouse typically must have an annual income that is at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. The more people there are in the sponsoring spouse’s household, the higher the income requirement.
Exactly how much income does the sponsoring spouse need? That depends on where the sponsor lives, the size of the household, whether the sponsor is active-duty military, and other factors. See below for a summary, as well as some frequently asked questions.
The most common annual minimum income requirement for a sponsoring spouse is $20,300. (This assumes that the sponsoring spouse is not active duty military, and that the couple has no children.)
The income requirements increase along with family size, as shown in the following chart for residents of the “Lower 48” contiguous states (excluding Alaska and Hawaii, but including the District of Columbia).
Income requirements for a spouse visa:
If the sponsoring spouse lives in Alaska or Hawaii, they will face higher minimum income requirements.
Income required if the sponsor lives in Alaska:
Income required for sponsors living in Hawaii:
What sources of income can I include?
In general, your annual income as a green card sponsor is the same as the income you report on your U.S. federal tax returns: typically the “adjusted gross income” line on your tax return for the most recent tax year. Your total annual income could include wage and salary income, retirement income, alimony, child support income, dividend or interest income, or income from other sources.
Can I include income from other members of my household?
If the sponsoring spouse does not meet the minimum annual income requirement alone, then it’s possible to include income from other adult household members as well. You can only include their income, however, as long as they are willing to make this income available to help support the spouse seeking a green card. A special form called the I-864A is required to establish this financial commitment.
Can I include income from others outside my household?
If the sponsoring spouse’s entire household does not meet the minimum annual income requirement together, there is another option.
The sponsoring spouse can enlist a secondary co-sponsor (a person outside the household) who is willing to accept full financial responsibility for the spouse who is seeking the green card. This secondary co-sponsor must submit their own Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) and must meet the above income requirements all on their own. (In other words, there can be no pooling of income or assets between the sponsoring spouse’s household and the secondary co-sponsor.)
Although the co-sponsor need not be a family member, he or she must be a U.S. citizen or green card holder residing in the United States.
Can I include income from the spouse seeking the green card?
The spouse seeking the green card (the “beneficiary”) may also use his or her own income to meet the financial requirements, but only as long as this income will continue from the same source after the green card is obtained.
What if my income still isn’t high enough—can I count my assets?
If your total combined household income still does not meet the meet the minimum annual income requirement, you are allowed to use assets as a substitute for income. Here’s how it works:
- Find the current Federal Poverty Guidelines minimum annual income for your household size (for most people, that’s the “125%” or right-hand column in the charts above).
- Subtract your total household income to find the difference.
- Multiply that difference by three. That’s the total value of your household’s assets you’ll need to demonstrate in order to meet the minimum financial sponsorship requirements for a marriage-based green card.
For example, say that you’re a household of three people living in Minnesota, with a total combined household income of $15,000 per year. According to the chart above, 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for your family is $25,525 per year. $25,525 minus $15,000 equals $10,525, and $10,525 times three is $31,575. That means in this example, the household would need to show at least $31,575 in assets to qualify for a marriage-based green card.
What kinds of assets can I include?
In general, USCIS requires that assets “can be converted into cash within one year and without considerable hardship or financial loss to the owner.” This could include savings accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs), mutual fund investments, individual stocks and bonds, and the like.
You can include the net value of your home, which is the appraised value minus all mortgages and other amounts you still have to pay back on the home.
You can also include the net value of a car (market value minus any loans you owe), but only if you have another car that you’re not including as an asset.