Applying for a green card for a foreign national family member may involve submitting Form I-864, known as an Affidavit of Support. The U.S. citizen uses this form to promise the government that they will be able to financially support the foreign national beneficiary. This will allow the beneficiary to avoid claiming government benefits for their basic needs and becoming a drain on public resources. If the sponsor fails to comply with the terms of the agreement, the beneficiary or the U.S. government can sue for reimbursement. (Read more here about the financial guarantees provided by a sponsor on Form I-864.) While historically the government rarely has sued in these situations, enforcement may become more frequent under the administration of President Donald Trump.
One of the requirements for Form I-864 is showing that you are domiciled in the U.S. In other words, your principal residence must be located in the U.S., and you must intend to keep your principal residence there for the foreseeable future. This can pose some challenges for U.S. citizens who live in other countries. They would need to provide an additional explanation with Form I-864, as well as evidence to support their statements. They would need to show that they are only living abroad temporarily, which most often means that they are working in a foreign country for a U.S.-related entity.
Working for a U.S.-Related Entity
Certain types of entities qualify as U.S.-related entities. These include any branch of the U.S. government or the U.S. military, as well as any research institution on a list provided by federal regulations. Another specific list of public international organizations in which the U.S. participates can be found in the federal regulations, and these organizations qualify as well. Otherwise, you can show that you work for a U.S.-related entity if your employer is a U.S.-owned company that is developing foreign trade and commerce between the U.S. and the foreign country. This means that the business is engaging in activities related to exchanging goods or services between the U.S. and the foreign country. Any type of business form can qualify for this status. Finally, a U.S.-related entity can be any religious organization with an official presence in the U.S., if the I-864 applicant is a minister, priest, or missionary.
You may be able to show that you are employed by one of these organizations even if you do not have permanent, full-time employment. In some situations, performing services under a contract or a grant may be enough. You do not need to establish that your job duties are the primary reason for living abroad. USCIS will evaluate the details of each case.
If you qualify because of your work for a U.S. company, you must provide USCIS with documents that show the formation and ownership of the company. Any applicant will need to provide a letter from their employer on official letterhead to support their application.
Other Ways to Meet the Requirement
Even if you are not employed by a U.S.-related entity, you may be able to successfully file Form I-864 if you can show that you left the U.S. only temporarily, you intended to maintain your primary residence in the U.S. when you left, and you have maintained your ties to the U.S. while living abroad. Some types of people other than employees who may qualify include students, volunteers for non-governmental organizations, and people performing contract work. They would need to show that they are living abroad only for a finite period.
Proving that you have maintained your ties to the U.S. might involve submitting renewals of licenses, absentee ballots for U.S. elections, titles to property held in the U.S., travel documents for visits to family members in the U.S., statements for U.S. bank accounts, and subscriptions to U.S. organizations. Any correspondence that suggests that the stay in the foreign country is temporary might help as well.
Applying While Domiciled Abroad
If you intend to establish your primary residence in the U.S. before the foreign national comes to the U.S., you may be able to file Form I-864 even if you are currently living abroad. You would need to persuade USCIS that you are legitimately planning to leave the foreign country. This might involve submitting evidence of job applications in the U.S., closures of foreign bank accounts, and correspondence with landlords or real estate agents in the U.S.