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How do I handle a proof of domicile when filling Form I-864?

To complete Form I-864, the petitioner must meet certain requirements. But what does “country of domicile” mean? How does an Affidavit of Support sponsor prove that someone’s country of domicile is the U.S.? You’ll find the answers to these questions here.

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Foreign nationals planning on immigrating to the United States need to prove that they won’t end up relying on the government for assistance of any kind. And in order to prove this claim, all noncitizens must have Form I-864 filed by a petitioner on their behalf.

To complete Form I-864, the petitioner must meet certain requirements. Not only does the sponsor have to be a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder), their country of domicile must also be the U.S.

But what does “country of domicile” mean? How does an Affidavit of Support sponsor prove that someone’s country of domicile is the U.S.? In this guide, you’ll find the answers to these questions and more.

What does country of domicile mean?

The term “domicile” refers to the place where an individual maintains their permanent home. An individual’s intent to permanently reside in a location makes said location their domicile. The individual is then called a “domiciliary.”

The domiciliary status of a person subjects them to the laws of their country of domicile. As such, domicile is an important legal concept, as it is used to determine what country an individual votes in, pays taxes to, claims benefits from and obeys the laws of.

What is Form I-864?

Form I-864 or Affidavit of Support is a USCIS form. When foreign nationals intend on immigrating to the United States, they must prove to the U.S. government that they won’t become a public charge—that is, that they won’t rely on the government for needs-based assistance, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credit and Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8 Housing).

Form I-864 must be completed by a sponsor—it cannot be completed by the intending immigrant. The sponsor is the petitioner of an Affidavit of Support, and the nonimmigrant is the beneficiary. By completing Form I-864, the sponsor is certifying that he or she will provide the necessary financial support if the foreign national is unable to support themself so that the beneficiary will not become a public charge.

Any of the following immigrants are required to have an Affidavit of Support completed on their behalf: 

  • Noncitizens who are immediate family members of U.S. citizens, such as spouses, parents and unmarried children under the age of 21

  • Family-based preference immigrants, such as siblings and unmarried children who are 21 or older of U.S. citizens

  • Employment-based preference immigrants (in this case, an I-864 is only required if a citizen, green card holder or relative of a U.S. national filed a petition for an immigrant visa or if the family member has at least 5% ownership interest in the immigrant)

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Affidavit of support sponsorship requirements

In order to serve as a sponsor of an Affidavit of Support, the individual must be:

  1. A U.S. citizen

  2. A lawful permanent resident

  3. A U.S. national

  4. At least 18 years of age

  5. Earning an income that is a minimum of 125% above the federal poverty line

  6. Able to prove that their country of domicile is the United States

The domicile requirement is a fundamental part of an Affidavit of Support Sponsorship. If the domicile requirement is not met or addressed, it’s very likely that the petitioner will not qualify as a Form I-864 sponsor. In that case, the intending immigrant will not be granted admission to the United States, or their adjustment of status will not be approved.

Guidelines for the country of domicile

Typically, in order to claim U.S domicile, the Affidavit of Support sponsor must be residing in the United States. Further, the Form I-864 petitioner must intend to maintain their principal residence in the country and must intend on doing so for the foreseeable future. The individual is permitted to move to other locations, but those locations must be within the United States, as well. For example, the petitioner can move from New York to California and still maintain U.S. domicile. Additionally, the sponsor may travel abroad, but he or she may not make his or her permanent residence in a foreign country; by doing so, the individual relinquishes U.S. domicile. 

Generally, if any of the following apply to an Affidavit of Support sponsor, their country of domicile is the United States: 

  • The petitioner both resides and works within the United States

  • The sponsor lives outside of the country because of temporary employment, but he or she maintains a home within the U.S. and plans on returning to that home once employment ends 

  • The individual resides outside of the U.S. but plans on restoring U.S. domicile (in good faith) at a date that is not beyond the date of the beneficiary’s admission to the United States or adjustment of status

Overseas employment

Certain U.S. citizens and green card holders who are employed overseas are automatically domiciled in the U.S. because of the nature of their work. Individuals who work in the following organizations or entities but are employed abroad automatically receive U.S. domicile:

  • The government of the United States (including all branches of the military)

  • American research institutions recognized by the Secretary of Homeland Security

  • American companies and subsidiaries of American companies who are engaged to some degree in foreign trade and commerce development with the U.S.

  • Religious denominations with a genuine institution within the U.S., as long as the individual is performing holy functions abroad or is solely engaged as a missionary for the religion

  • A public international business that the U.S. contributes to by way of a treaty or a statute

How to prove U.S. domicile for those whose domicile isn’t clear

Affidavit of Support sponsors are permitted to live in a foreign country on a temporary basis and still maintain U.S. domicile. They are also allowed to make numerous extended visits abroad and still maintain U.S. domicile. However, living abroad temporarily and frequently traveling outside of the country for prolonged periods of time can make it challenging for sponsors to establish that their country of domicile is, in fact, the United States. 

Affidavit of Support sponsors who are not currently residing in the U.S. are required to provide proof that (1) their foreign residence or their travel abroad is only temporary and that (2) the U.S. is still their country of domicile. The following can be used as proof to satisfy the I-864 domicile requirement. 

  • A record of voting in the United States

  • Documents reflect that the individual has paid state and local taxes

  • Property ownership in the U.S. 

  • A permanent U.S. mailing address

  • Bank or investment accounts with U.S. financial institutions 

  • Evidence that supports the reason for temporarily living, traveling or studying abroad

  • Authorization of a temporary stay from the foreign country’s government

The above are primary sources of proof that American citizens are lawful permanent residents and are only temporarily living abroad. Their claim can be further supported by the following:

  • Storage facility receipts

  • Contributions toward or subscriptions with U.S. organizations

  • The renewal of an American driver’s license

  • Correspondence with family, work colleagues and organizations or institutions that indicates the individual intends on returning to the U.S.

How to provide proof of U.S. domicile when living abroad

It’s imperative that U.S. citizens provide proof that their country of domicile is the United States if they intend on serving as a sponsor for an Affidavit of Support.

Petitioners in this situation must provide:

  1. A written and detailed explanation as to why they’re not currently living in the United States and that they intend on maintaining the U.S. as their permanent residency

  2. Acceptable evidence to support their domicile claim

  3. Completed Form I-864

  4. Supporting documentation required for the Affidavit of Support 

The takeaway

Establishing U.S. domicile is a requirement that Affidavit of Support sponsors must meet. In cases where the sponsor is presently residing in the United States or is employed in a specific occupation overseas, country of domicile is easy to establish.

However, for individuals who are temporarily living abroad, their country of domicile may not be easily established. As such, it is vital that they provide the necessary supporting evidence with Form I-864 to prove that the U.S. is their permanent home.

For more resources on how to navigate your new life in the U.S., visit Nova Credit’s resource library where you can learn about everything from renting an apartment to finding the best credit cards for noncitizens

Moved to the U.S. from Australia, India or the UK?

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