Income Requirements for a Marriage-Based Green Card
Obtaining a green card for your spouse doesn’t have to be confusing. Here’s an overview of the marriage-based green card process, explained in plain language.
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 Sponsoring Spouse Lives in the “Lower 48” U.S. states, including Washington, DC
The Sponsoring Spouse Lives in Alaska
The Sponsoring Spouse Lives in Hawaii
Frequently Asked Questions
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. This could include wage and salary income, retirement income, alimony, child support, 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 you are allowed 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.
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.)
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.
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Boundless provides you with an easy-to-use, step-by-step online tool so you can complete your green card application process with confidence.