Common mistakes completing the I-864

My colleague, Charles Wheeler at CLINIC has written a helpful post on common errors on the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. I agree with Charles that the National Visa Center (NVC) has "increased its scrutiny" on the Form I-864, resulting in an increased number of Requests for Evidence. Just last week my firm prepared a lawsuit against the NVC for delay on an I-864 case. Charles identifies five common mistakes that sponsors commit when completing the Form I-864. Here are my thoughts on some of his points.

It is anticipated income, not what the sponsor paid in taxes last year.  The I-864 in Part 6, line 5, asks the sponsor to indicate his or her “current individual annual income.” [. . . ]

A common issue when completing the I-864 is that the individual earned under the required level of support in the past tax year, but is currently earning above the required level. I would emphasize a slightly different point from Charles, however. As he points out later in his post, the NVC is eager to reject Forms I-864 if there is a variance between reported income and the previous year's tax returns. For this reason, I'm extremely reluctant to file and I-864 based on "anticipated" income if the previous year's income was about 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. As I tell clients, the point isn't to win the high income game, it's to get past the National Visa Center. If the income reported on the Form I-864 doesn't match the last year's income there is a chance the Form I-864 will be rejected.

Put down exactly what the sponsor reported in taxes last year. The I-864 in Part 6, line 13a-c, asks for the sponsor’s “total income…as reported on my federal tax returns for the most recent 3 years.” This is where you need to take the income reported on line 22 of last year’s 1040 and put that figure in line 13a.

I completely agree with Charles: this can't be emphasized enough. You literally need to copy/paste the "total income" line from last year's tax transcript (or adjusted total income if you used a 1040ez). A $1 difference between those numbers can cause the Form I-864 to be rejected. Seriously.

Only include assets if income is insufficient.

A sponsor is required to report assets on the Form I-864 only if she doesn't meet the income requirements. If she's at or about 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines there is no reason to include assets. You can, but there's no reason to provide proof of assets if income is sufficient. Given scrutiny by the NVC, it's best not to introduce extra information if it's not required.