The Importance of Form I-134 in Family-Based Immigration

The Importance of Form I-134 in Family-Based Immigration
Form I-134 is to demonstrate to the government that the sponsor has sufficient financial resources to support the visa applicant during their stay.

What is Form I-134, Declaration of Financial Support?

Form I-134, Declaration of Financial Support, is a document used by individuals in the United States who wish to sponsor a foreign national seeking a U.S. visa, such as a tourist visa (B-2), a family-sponsored visa (e.g., K-1 for fiancés), or certain employment-based visas (e.g., E-3 for Australian workers). This form is not used for immigrant visas (permanent residency) but rather for non-immigrant visas.

The purpose of Form I-134 is to demonstrate to the U.S. government that the sponsor has sufficient financial resources to support the visa applicant during their stay in the United States. It serves as a legally binding contract between the sponsor and the U.S. government, indicating that the sponsor is willing and able to provide financial support to the foreign national if necessary to prevent them from becoming a public charge.

Key points about Form I-134:

  • Sponsor Eligibility: U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (green card holders) who are at least 18 years old can serve as sponsors. They must be residing in the United States.
  • Supporting Documents: Along with Form I-134, sponsors typically need to provide evidence of their financial stability. This may include pay stubs, bank statements, employment letters, and any other relevant financial documents.
  • Affidavit of Support: Form I-134 is essentially an affidavit of support. By signing it, the sponsor is making a legal commitment to financially support the foreign national if they encounter financial difficulties during their visit to the U.S.
  • Duration of Support: The sponsor's commitment is generally limited to the duration of the visa applicant's stay in the United States. It does not extend to providing financial support for an indefinite period or for the entire immigration process.
  • Submission: The completed Form I-134, along with the supporting documents, should be given to the visa applicant. The applicant then includes it as part of their visa application package when applying for a non-immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
  • Review and Approval: U.S. immigration authorities will review the Form I-134 and supporting documents to assess whether the sponsor's financial resources are adequate to support the visa applicant. If approved, the applicant has a better chance of obtaining the visa.

What is Form I-129?

Form I-129, officially known as the "Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker," is a document used by employers in the United States to request permission from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to temporarily employ foreign nationals in various nonimmigrant visa categories. The form is a critical component of the process for bringing foreign workers to the United States for specific employment purposes.

Key points about Form I-129:

  • Employer Responsibility: The Form I-129 is typically filed by U.S. employers or their authorized representatives (such as immigration attorneys) on behalf of foreign workers they intend to hire or employ temporarily.
  • Nonimmigrant Categories: Form I-129 is used for various nonimmigrant visa categories, including but not limited to:
    • H-1B visas for specialty occupation workers.
    • L-1 visas for intracompany transferees.
    • O visas for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement.
    • P visas for athletes, artists, and entertainers.
    • TN visas for Canadian and Mexican professionals under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
    • E visas for treaty traders and investors.
    • R visas for religious workers.
    • And more.
  • Supporting Documentation: When filing Form I-129, the employer must provide supporting documentation, such as a job offer letter, labor condition application (LCA) for certain visa categories, evidence of the foreign worker's qualifications, and other relevant information.
  • Filing Fee: There is a filing fee associated with Form I-129, and the amount may vary depending on the visa category and the specific circumstances. Employers are responsible for paying this fee.
  • Processing Time: The processing time for Form I-129 can vary significantly based on the visa category and the USCIS service center handling the petition. Some categories, like H-1B visas, may have specific annual limits, and a lottery system is used to select beneficiaries when the demand exceeds the available slots.
  • Form I-797: After USCIS reviews the Form I-129 and approves it, they will issue Form I-797, which serves as the official notice of approval. The foreign worker can use this document to apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate if required.
  • Change of Status or Extension: In some cases, Form I-129 can also be used to request a change of status or an extension of stay for foreign workers who are already in the United States.
  • Employer Compliance: Employers who hire foreign workers using Form I-129 must comply with the terms and conditions specified in the petition, including paying the prevailing wage and adhering to all relevant regulations.
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