Form I-134 Affidavit of Support for B-1/B-2 Visitor Visas16 May 2022
The Murthy Law Firm routinely receives inquiries from people who are in the United States and who wish to “sponsor” a friend or family member for a B-1/B-2 visitor visa. The reality is that, ordinarily, one cannot actually be sponsored for a standard B-1/B-2 visa; but, it is possible for a person in the U.S. to provide financial sponsorship through the submission of a signed affidavit of support, using form I-134. For many applicants, however, submitting this form could actually do more harm than good.
Applicant’s Qualifications Determine Visa Eligibility
It is important to note that consular officers adjudicate B-1/B-2 visas based solely on the personal qualifications of the applicant. No document provided by someone in the United States can guarantee visa issuance. Similarly, there is no document or set of documents that will ensure approval of an applicant’s visitor visa. Consular officers are trained to focus on an applicant’s personal circumstances and responses to interview questions.
Financial Prowess Helpful with B-1/B-2 Visas
Finances are an important part of the B-1/B-2 application process. The DS-160 visa application asks questions regarding the person or entity paying for the applicant’s trip, as well as the applicant’s monthly salary. Consular officers often examine financial information during the visa interview to determine the applicant’s ability to afford the trip and to analyze the applicant’s ties to the home country for the purposes of overcoming the presumption of immigrant intent.
Under Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, every applicant for a nonimmigrant visa is presumed to be an “intending immigrant” (i.e. it is assumed that the applicant actually plans to remain permanently in the United States). The burden is on the visa applicant to overcome this automatic presumption and to convince the consular officer that s/he truly intends to depart the United States after the temporary visit.
Avoid Submission of Form I-134 unless Specifically Requested
Form I-134 is used to document the personal finances of a sponsor who lives in the United States. A sponsor may be a U.S. citizen, a lawful permanent resident, or a lawfully admitted nonimmigrant, such as a person in H1B status. The instructions for the I-134 state that its purpose is “to show that visa applicants have sponsorship and will not become public charges while in the United States.” The Foreign Affairs Manual, which provides official guidance to consular officers, only specifically mentions the I-134 in the section regarding public charge refusals and only directs consular officers to review the form in such cases. Thus, the explicit purpose of the form is to overcome questions that an applicant may become a public charge – that is, someone who is dependent on the government for cash assistance or long-term care, which is a specific ground of inadmissibility.
Given the narrow circumstances in which consular officers are directed to consider the I-134, its utility is limited in the B-1/B-2 context to specific situations, such as when the sponsor is identified as the person paying for the trip in the DS-160 or when the applicant intends to receive medical treatment in the United States. In these situations, the I-134 may help overcome the consular officer’s doubts about the applicant’s qualifications and the sponsor’s ability to support the applicant’s visit or treatment. Even then, however, the form should typically only be presented if the consular officer requests it.
Form I-134 to Supplement Applicant’s Financial Ability
The I-134 can be a red flag to a consular officer, indicating that the applicant is unable to afford the trip or lacks financial or business ties to the home country. So, the I-134 should not be used in lieu of personal financial documents, but rather to supplement documents establishing the applicant’s personal and financial qualifications in some situations.
The I-134 should not be used as a general sponsorship document and typically should be presented only if the consular officer specifically asks for it. Furthermore, the form should not be offered as a substitute for the applicant’s personal financial information or other proof of ties to the home country. No sponsor can guarantee visa issuance, and hence B-1/B-2 visa applicants are better suited by completely documenting their personal situations and qualifications for the visa.
While some aspects of immigration have changed significantly in the years since MurthyDotCom began publishing articles in 1994, there is much that is still the same. From time to time, we at the Murthy Law Firm refer our clients to articles, like this one, which remains relevant.
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