U.S. Domicile Requirement for Family-Based Green Card Sponsorship

Most petitions filed for an alien relative (form I-130) require the petitioner to also serve as a financial sponsor for the intending immigrant. Among the requirements to qualify as a sponsor, the individual must be domiciled in the United States or a U.S. territory. While demonstrating a U.S. domicile may be simple for a petitioner who permanently resides in the U.S., a petitioner living abroad will likely need to take extra steps to satisfy this requirement.

U.S. Domicile Requirement

Having a U.S. domicile means that the United States is an individual’s principal place of residence and is where the individual intends to remain for the foreseeable future. The possession of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent resident status (commonly referred to as “green card”) alone does not independently satisfy the requirement of U.S. domicile. Additionally, although a joint sponsor can sometimes be used to relieve a primary sponsor’s financial responsibility, as explained in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief 2023 Poverty Guideline: Impacts on Affidavits of Support (08.Feb.2023), a joint sponsor does not relieve a primary sponsor’s U.S. domicile requirement.

Maintaining U.S. Domicile When Temporarily Living Abroad

In certain cases, a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) can maintain a U.S. domicile while physically living abroad. For a U.S. citizen, U.S. domicile can be maintained if the individual is temporarily living abroad and engaged in certain qualifying employment, such as working for the U.S. government, a research institution recognized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a U.S. company engaged in developing foreign trade with the U.S., certain public international organizations, and in certain religious occupations, including as a minister, priest, or missionary. An LPR temporarily living abroad can also maintain a U.S. domicile if the individual has an approved N-470 application to preserve residence for naturalization purposes.

Establishing U.S. Domicile After a Prolonged Residence Abroad

If a U.S. citizen or LPR living abroad no longer has a U.S. domicile, the individual may still file an immigrant petition on behalf of a family member, but the individual will ultimately need to establish a U.S. domicile to qualify as a sponsor. In such a case, the petitioner can sign and submit a form I-864, affidavit of support under section 213A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), for the beneficiary, and demonstrate that the petitioner will establish a U.S. domicile before or on the date of the beneficiary’s adjustment of status or admission to the U.S. as an LPR.

If a sponsor arrives in the U.S. together with a beneficiary with intent to establish a U.S. domicile upon arrival, the sponsor can be deemed to have satisfied the U.S. domicile requirement at that time. In practice however, a sponsor living abroad will often need to demonstrate the establishment of or intent to establish a U.S. domicile prior to arriving in the U.S. together with a beneficiary – or prior to the beneficiary’s adjustment of status, if applicable – to qualify as a sponsor. Per the U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual, evidence of having or intending to establish a U.S. domicile includes, but is not limited to, a U.S. bank account, transferring funds to or making investments in the U.S., seeking, or having U.S. employment, registering children in U.S. schools, applying for a social security number, or voting in U.S. elections.


Having a U.S. domicile is an often-overlooked requirement for qualifying as a sponsor, but it is nonetheless, essential. While many petitioners can easily demonstrate a U.S. domicile, the matter is not always straightforward, particularly when the petitioner is living abroad. An individual who is facing uncertainties and has questions about this important aspect of qualifying as a sponsor should seek case-specific legal advice.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.