Form I-134: What you need to know

Before you decide to sponsor someone, learn the legal obligations you’re agreeing to with this form.

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What's Inside

What's Inside

Noncitizens can be denied a green card, visa or entry into the United States if the government concludes they’ll likely become a “public charge”. That is, an individual who relies on government money to support themselves.

To prove that they won’t become a public charge, noncitizens may need a Form I-134, Declaration of Financial Support. Many times, someone else files this form, but in some cases, the noncitizen files it themselves.

To shed some light on this topic, this article explains what Form I-134 is, how it differs from similar immigration forms, who uses it and when and how to file it.

What’s the purpose of Form I-134?

Form I-134 allows a sponsor to promise to financially cover a noncitizen and ensure they won’t rely on public benefits for financial support. The noncitizen may be in the U.S. or be trying to come to the U.S. on a temporary nonimmigrant visa.

Form I-134 vs Form I-134A

Though it may sound like the same thing, Form I-134A, Online Request to be a Supporter and Declaration of Financial Support, is different from Form I-134. 

So far, Form I-134A is used for only three specific humanitarian programs:

  • Uniting for Ukraine
  • Processes for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans
  • Family reunification parole processes

Form I-134A also does double duty. You submit it not only to pledge financial support but also to sponsor noncitizens who are part of those three programs. 

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Form I-134 vs Form I-864

Formerly called Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) renamed Form I-134 to be a “declaration” to avoid confusion with Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA

Form I-864 is used to pledge financial support for noncitizens requesting green cards based on family relationships. Compared to Form I-134, it has a higher income requirement and covers longer stays in the U.S.

Who may be a Form I-134 sponsor?

A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) may be a Form I-134 sponsor. Sponsors must also: 

  • Prove they meet 100 percent of the federal poverty guidelines for income level for their household size
  • Be willing to financially support the beneficiary if necessary
  • Submit financial statements and tax returns for review

Beneficiaries of Form I-134 may sometimes file on their own behalf. Individuals in this case typically fall into one of these situations: 

  • They have a lawful temporary status (like asylum or refugee status) that leads to a green card 
  • They have a lawful temporary status (like temporary protected status or humanitarian parole) that frequently gets extended based on ongoing humanitarian crises
  • They have or are seeking a nonimmigrant visa to work in the U.S. temporarily

When do you file Form I-134?

The Form I-134 instructions clarify the situations where you must use Form I-134 and situations where you may use Form I-134.

Mandatory use of Form I-134

Some noncitizens hold a lawful status that allows them to live in the U.S. but doesn’t authorize them to return if they leave. If those noncitizens want to travel abroad, they can use Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, to request advance permission to return to the U.S. after their travel. 

Some people who file a Form I-131 typically need to include a Form I-134, particularly: 

  • Noncitizens with a pending adjustment of status application not related to a humanitarian program
  • Noncitizens with any status not explicitly exempted from the public charge doctrine (including humanitarian parole)

Additionally, USCIS and U.S. consulates sometimes request a Form I-134 in individual nonimmigrant visa cases. For example, it’s common to use Form I-134 with an application for a K-visa, known as a fiancé(e) visa, which allows a U.S. citizen sponsor to bring a noncitizen to the U.S. to get married. 

Optional use of Form I-134

You may also use Form I-134 in connection with a request for several non-work-related nonimmigrant visas and if you’re trying to extend your time in the U.S. on the same visa or by changing to a different visa. For example, an F-1 student visa holder may request that USCIS extend their stay so they can work a temporary job.

Form I-134 may also prove useful for noncitizens seeking a B-visa, known as a visitor visa. Choosing to submit Form I-134 may show you have financial support to cover your trip to the U.S., which might convince an officer to grant a visa. However, this strategy may backfire if not approached carefully. 

For better or worse, individual officers of USCIS and U.S. consulates and embassies abroad (which grant visas) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP, which permits or denies entry to the U.S.) exercise a great deal of discretion. If an officer decides a noncitizen secretly intends to stay in the U.S., they may refuse to authorize their travel. This risk is currently heightened for citizens of certain countries, especially Latin American countries. 

That means that although Form I-134 may help convince USCIS, CBP or a consulate to exercise discretion in some cases, it may also raise red flags in others. For example, the government may heavily scrutinize an application with a Form I-134 sponsor closely related to the beneficiary, especially if the beneficiary doesn’t have strong ties to their home country. 

If you’re unsure whether submitting Form I-134 is likely to help or hurt your application, an immigration lawyer may be able to offer advice about your individual circumstances.

How do you file Form I-134?

Form I-134 requires extensive financial information about the sponsor and beneficiary. With the completed form, you must submit documentation of each person’s finances, including, for example:

  • Bank account statements
  • Tax returns
  • Employment information
  • Proof of asset ownership

You can submit Form I-134 either online or by mail. When in the application process you submit Form I-134 depends on what legal status you’re requesting. When the form is mandatory, USCIS or your consulate should explain the appropriate time to submit it. If you choose to submit the form, you often include it with your initial application materials sent to USCIS or the U.S. consulate.

How a lawyer may help

Although you may handle your immigration matters yourself, many people benefit from hiring an immigration attorney to help with Form I-134. An experienced lawyer can help you determine whether you need to file the form and help you gather the necessary financial documentation. They can also guide you through the underlying application you’re submitting in connection with Form I-134.

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Frequently asked questions

What are the Form I-134 sponsor responsibilities?

A Form I-134 sponsor must ensure that the beneficiary doesn’t become a public charge, meaning the beneficiary relies on government assistance. Circumstances where the beneficiary is eligible for public benefits and not otherwise exempt from the public charge doctrine are rare. Regardless, Form I-134 creates a legally enforceable obligation.

How long does it take for Form I-134 to be approved?

Form I-134 is always part of another application. Because of that, USCIS doesn’t provide clear Form I-134 processing times. However, you should expect Form I-134 to be processed during the related application’s timeline.

What is the income requirement for Form I-134?

Your income must be at or above 100 percent of the federal poverty level for your household size to satisfy the income requirement for Form I-134.

What is proof of income for Form I-134?

When you submit form I-134, you’ll also submit proof of income, typically including one or more bank account statements, a letter from your employer describing your employment situation, your most recent tax return and proof of asset ownership.

Disclaimer: This article is provided as general information, not legal advice, and may not reflect the current laws in your state. It does not create an attorney-client relationship and is not a substitute for seeking legal counsel based on the facts of your circumstance. No reader should act based on this article without seeking legal advice from a lawyer licensed in their state.

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