How to Tell the Difference Between Form I-134 and I-864

Many people get Form I-134 and Form I-864 confused, and it’s no wonder! They’re both called Affidavits of Support and are frequently only referred to by their numbers. While both documents allow immigrants to sponsor someone else for citizenship, the difference between them is small—but important.

What Is an Affidavit of Support?

An Affidavit of Support is an immigration document that’s completed by someone on behalf of a person coming to the United States. The basic purpose of the form is for the “sponsor” to promise that they will financially support the visitor or resident if they need it.

Having a sponsor can be the key to get into the United States to start the immigration process. Therefore, it’s important to get the right sponsorship form for your situation! Here’s what you need to know.

Form I-134: Nonimmigrant Visitor Visas

Form I-134 is the Affidavit of Support that’s used for temporary or “nonimmigrant” visitor visas. If you’re visiting the US as a tourist, student, or for a brief business trip, you may be required to submit Form I-134 as a part of your visa application.

If you’re an immigrant, it’s likely that you will NOT use this form. An example of someone using this form is a college student who needs to show that they have enough income to finish their education before leaving the country.

Form I-864: Permanent or Immigrant Visas

Form I-864 is the Affidavit of Support that’s used for permanent or immigrant visas. This form is for people who are coming to live in the United States permanently as green card holders. This is the one that immigrants need to use.

This is the family-based immigration sponsorship form. If you have a spouse in the U.S., or existing qualifying family, this is the form they will fill out to get you a sponsorship. Whoever is sponsoring must show evidence of income to support you.

If your sponsor meets the income requirements and fills out the form correctly, then they can get you an immigrant visa number. With that, assuming no other barriers like a bad criminal record, you should be able to apply for a visa and enter the U.S.

clipboard with form i-864 affidavit of support under section 213a of ina
A clipboard with Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA. Do you need this or the I-134 Form? Find out the differences between these two.

Why Are Sponsors Necessary for Immigrants?

When an immigrant first enters the U.S., the government wants to make sure they can support themselves. If someone came in with no money or job, it would be up to the public taxpayer to pay for their needs. This is called being a “public charge.”

The government doesn’t want public charges. A sponsor tells the government that they will be responsible for your financial needs until the government thinks you can support yourself. It is a promise to support you as you get accustomed to the country and begin the immigration process.

Violating a sponsor’s trust is a serious matter because sponsors put themselves at a lot of risks. It’s an act of serious trust to sponsor an immigrant. They’re legally responsible for you for 10 years after you get lawful permanent residence or until you obtain U.S. citizenship.

Must I Have a Sponsor to Become a U.S. Citizen?

There are two main exceptions to the sponsorship requirement. The first is if you can be credited with 40 qualifying quarters as defined by the Social Security Act. This can be done by working part-time in the U.S. but living in your home country, for a significant period.

The second exception is if you’re a child of a U.S. citizen and will automatically gain citizenship upon entry into the U.S. If neither of these exceptions applies to you, then you will need to get a sponsor.

There is also the possibility of employer sponsorship. This is the way for people with no family ties to the United States to get an entry for immigration. Those run under a separate system unrelated to Forms I-134 and I-864.

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