When a US Citizen sponsors a Thai fiancé/fiancée or spouse for immigration to the United States the US Citizen must show that he/she can support the Thai immigrant. The US government is interested in making sure that an immigrant brought to the US (for our purposes a Thai loved one) will not become a public charge (welfare recipient).
In order to prove to immigration officials that the US Citizen can indeed support his Thai fiancé/fiancée or spouse he will need to fill out an affidavit of support. For a K-1 or K-3 visa the I-134 Affidavit of Support form is necessary to show the petitioner (US Citizen) meets the income requirement to support a Thai fiancé/fiancée or spouse. For an IR-1/CR-1 visa the I-864 Affidavit of Support is necessary to prove that the petitioner meets the income requirements.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE I-134 AND THE I-864?
There is some debate as to the difference between the I-864 and the I-134 Affidavits of Support. For the purposes of this article I will not delve greatly into their differences other than to make a note of their enforceability. There is some speculation as to whether or not the I-134 is an enforceable document. Basically, if you bring a Thai fiancé/fiancée or spouse to the United States and he/she becomes a public charge it is possible that a court will find that the US government cannot force you (the US Citizen) to pay for the benefits received by the Thai fiancé/fiancée or spouse.
The I-864 Affidavit of Support is a much stronger document with regard to enforceability. In fact an immigrant spouse in the US sued a US Citizen for payment based upon the I-864 Affidavit of Support claiming that she (the foreign spouse) was the third party beneficiary of a contract between the US Citizen and the US government. The Court found in favor of the foreign spouse.
Another key difference between the I-864 and I-134 Affidavits of Support is how heavily scrutinized a US Citizen’s income and assets will be when the immigration officials decide to grant a visa for a Thai fiancé/fiancée or spouse. Generally, the I-134 is scrutinized less than and I-864. That being said, in this article we will look at the requirements for the I-864 because if a US Citizen meets those requirements then he/she will definitely meet the requirements necessary to support a Thai fiancé/fiancée or spouse under the I-134.
INCOME REQUIREMENTS FOR SPONSORING A THAI FIANCE/FIANCEE
For a US Citizen to sponsor a Thai fiancée or spouse his income must meet the income requirement set forth by the US immigration authorities. The Citizen must show that his income is 125% of the poverty line. The following chart illustrates the poverty guidelines for 2007 along with the calculation necessary to determine if a petitioner’s income meets the 125% requirement. (Note: Military personnel on active duty need only show an income that meets the poverty level).
WHAT IF I DON’T MEET THE INCOME REQUIREMENT
A major concern arises when a US Citizen does not meet the above specified requirements for sponsoring a Thai fiancé/fiancée or spouse. The immigration authorities try to look at the whole picture when calculating a US Citizens ability to support a Thai loved one. Therefore if a Citizen’s income falls short of the above threshold then the Immigration Authorities look at the Citizen’s assets. If his total unencumbered assets add up to five times the difference between his income and the income required then he will be found to be eligible to sponsor a Thai fiancé/fiancée or spouse.
HOW TO CALCULATE ASSETS TO MEET THE REQUIREMENT
The value of assets (minus mortgages, liens, outstanding taxes, total unpaid debt, etc.) must be equal to five times the difference between the sponsor’s income and 125% of the poverty level for the household in question.
As an example, a US Citizen seeking to sponsor a Thai loved one earns $14,112.50 in taxable income. He owns a $100,000 home with a mortgage of $80,000. His bank account has $2,000 in it. The US Immigration officials will probably compute this situation as follows:
First we need to find the number we need to hit which must be equal to five times the difference between the sponsor’s income and 125 percent of the poverty line for the household size:
17,112.50-14,112.50 = 3,000
3000 x 5 = 15,000
15,000 = the value the US Citizen’s total assets must be in order to be applied toward petitioner’s sponsorship of the Thai fiancé/fiancée or spouse.
Home Value: $100,000-$80,000=$20,000
Liquidity in Bank Account: $2,000
$20,000 + $2,000 = $22,000
Total value of assets = $22,000
The US Citizen’s net asset value is $22,000, which is a higher amount than the $15,000 necessary to meet the income requirement
A Special Note Regarding K-1 Visas in Thailand
Each Embassy has wide authority to interpret the income requirements for sponsorship and gauge each prospective US Citizen Sponsor’s ability to support his Thai loved one. The above analysis applies to the I-864 Affidavit of Support, but the analysis holds true for the I-134 Affidavit of Support because that affidavit is less stringent in application. As a rule of thumb, go by the above analysis rather than trying to figure out the specifics of the I-134. Where a US Citizen is close to the borderline with the affidavit of support particularly where he is using assets to show an ability to support a Thai fiancé/fiancée or spouse it would be wise to seek competent legal advice.