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Who is a joint-sponsor? Who is a substitute sponsor? Can the green card applicant’s income be used to show sufficient income for Form I-864?

By December 15, 2020March 16th, 2021Family Immigration, Immigration
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If you are applying for a green card through Adjustment of Status, in most cases you will have to submit form I-864, Affidavit of Support.

Affidavit of Support is basically a contract between the sponsor and the government in which the sponsor agrees to support the green card applicant. Once the green card applicant receives the green card, the sponsor must provide the green card holder any support that is needed to maintain the applicant’s income at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.


John, a U.S. citizen just married Elena, a Polish national. John wants to sponsor Elena for a green card. John just lost his job couple weeks ago, so his income is currently 0. John and Elena’s long-time friend Mark is willing to be a joint sponsor and sign the I-864 form. Is this possible?

Let us explain some basic terms first:

Who is a sponsor?

A sponsor is a person who is petitioning the foreign national for a green card. In the example above, John is the sponsor as he wants to sponsor Elena for a green card.

A sponsor will have to show that his/her household income is equal to or higher than 125% of the U.S. poverty guidelines.


John’s household size is 2 – he only lives with Elena and does not have any dependent children or any other dependents. John and Elena live in New York.

In this case, John would have to show that he earns $21,550 or more per year as per the Federal guidelines. Please note that the guidelines are updated on regular basis, please see the current version when you click here.

Who is a joint sponsor?

If the sponsor (John in the example above) is currently unemployed or his/her income is lower than 125% of the U.S. poverty guidelines, a joint sponsor can complete the Affidavit of Support for the green card applicant.

Who can be a joint sponsor? Does the joint sponsor have to be related to the green card applicant?

A joint sponsor does not have to be related to the green card applicant and does not have to be related to the U.S. citizen/green card holder who is sponsoring the green card applicant. Any U.S. citizen, green card holder, or U.S. national who is at least 18 years old or older and who has a domicile in the U.S. or its territories or possessions can be a joint sponsor.

In the example above, if Mark is at least 18 years and he lives in the U.S., he could be a joint sponsor.

The joint sponsor will have to sign the I-864 form in which he/she will declare that he/she is jointly liable with the sponsor for the green card applicant’s support.

Who is a substitute sponsor? Is it the same as joint sponsor?

No, a substitute sponsor is not the same as joint sponsor. A substitute sponsor is a sponsor who is completing Form I-864 on behalf of a green card applicant whose original petitioning sponsor has died after the I-130 form was filed but before the green card petition was approved.

In the example above, if John filed the I-130 petition and died before Elena’s green card petition was approved, then Elena would need to get a substitute sponsor.

A substitute sponsor would need to be related to the green card applicant as a:


  • spouse
  • parent
  • mother-in-law
  • father-in-law
  • sibling
  • child (at least 18 years of age)
  • son
  • daughter
  • son-in-law
  • daughter-in-law
  • brother-in-law
  • sister-in-law
  • grandparent
  • grandchild
  • legal guardian

Can the green card applicant’s income be used in the I-864 form?


Elena is currently working in the U.S. on an H-1B visa and her annual income is $90,000.

The answer is yes. Elena could use her income on form I-864 to demonstrate that she meets the poverty guidelines and in such case she would not need a joint sponsor. However, Elena would have to show that her income will continue from the current source after she obtains the green card.

Please click here to find out where will your Adjustment of Status petition be processed.

Please click here to read more about the Adjustment of Status process if you married a U.S. citizen.

Please click here to find out more about the I-944, Declaration of Self Sufficiency form.

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