Green Card Sponsorship for U.S. Citizens Living Abroad
While green card sponsorship can be challenging, the complexity multiplies when a U.S. citizen spouse is living abroad. This article explores the unique considerations that arise in such situations.
The usual procedure for most marriage-based cases involves the U.S. Citizen (USC) or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) residing within the United States.
The initial step for the USC/LPR involves submitting Form I-130 to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to confirm the bona-fide nature of the marital relationship and to determine the foreign spouse’s eligibility to immigrate to the United States. Following I-130 approval, your case proceeds to the National Visa Center, where you’ll be required to submit specific documents and make payments for the Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee and the Affidavit of Support Fee. After the NVC completes its document review and schedules an interview, the case is then forwarded to the Consulate for the final adjudication process.
However, where the USC/LPR petitioner lives abroad with their spouse special care must be paid to the following:
Demonstrating a Commitment to Reside in the U.S.
While it is possible for a U.S. citizen residing abroad to sponsor their spouse for a green card, it is essential to establish a clear intention to return to the United States once your foreign-born spouse obtains their green card. Be prepared to articulate your concrete plan for returning and have a well-defined timeline in mind.
Proving financial ability. This is where it can get a little tricky. To be a financial sponsor, you must be at least 18 years of age, hold either U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, and maintain a legal residence (domicile) within the United States.
Domicile refers to the primary place of residence where a sponsor intends to maintain their living arrangement for the foreseeable future. To qualify as a financial sponsor, a petitioner must establish their domicile within the U.S.
For sponsors who are not currently residing in the United States, meeting the domicile requirement is possible if they can provide evidence for any of the following conditions:
- The sponsor is employed by specific organizations, as defined below.
- The sponsor is temporarily living abroad but has retained their domicile in the United States.
- The sponsor genuinely intends to establish their domicile in the United States no later than the date of the intending immigrant’s admission to the United States.
Temporary employment stationed abroad with one of the following organizations counts towards U.S. domicile:
- U.S. government.
- U.S. institution of research recognized by the Secretary of Homeland Security.
- U.S. firm or corporation or its subsidiary engaged in whole or in part in the development of foreign trade and commerce with the United States.
- A public international organization in which the United States participates by treaty or statute.
- A religious denomination/group having a genuine organization within the United States.
- A missionary by a religious denomination/group or by an interdenominational mission organization within the United States.
Although temporary can be for an extended period, a sponsor must establish that when he/she departed the U.S. it was for a limited time only, they intended to maintain domicile in the U.S. and continues to have ties to the U.S.
Petitioners are required to file form I-864 and need to demonstrate that they can support their spouse at 125% above the poverty level for their household size based on the poverty guidelines. For example, for a household of three a Petitioner needs to demonstrate income of $31,075.
A USC/LPR who is living abroad will not have any U.S. income and a job offer will not suffice for the purposes of filing Form I-864. Therefore, to demonstrate financial ability the petitioning spouse must rely on their total net value of assets. Assets include those easily convertible to cash including savings, bonds, stocks, and property.
To qualify as a sponsor using assets their value must equal five times the figure listed in the poverty guidelines. However, if you are a USC sponsoring your spouse or child your assets only need to equal three times the poverty guidelines.
A U.S. Citizen spouse with a household size of three would need to demonstrate that their assets are valued at $93,225. The same spouse who is only an LPR, would need to show assets valuing $155,375.
In the absence of sufficient income or assets a joint sponsor may be required. A joint sponsor doesn’t necessarily need to be a family member and can be anyone that meets the above eligibility requirements.
In summary, sponsoring a green card for a foreign-born spouse while living abroad as a U.S. citizen involves demonstrating a commitment to return to the United States, meeting specific financial requirements through assets, and considering the option of a joint sponsor if necessary. While complex, with careful planning and adherence to these guidelines, U.S. citizens abroad can successfully navigate this process and bring their spouses to the United States.
If you have questions regarding the above please email PLG Partner, Chris Prescott at email@example.com.