Green Card Through Marriage Process Steps: Exceeding Poverty Guidelines Thresholds. Has Green Card Process Became Easier?
One of the green card through marriage process steps involves meeting or exceeding poverty guidelines that the U.S. government publishes annually. These guidelines were updated a few weeks ago and are now published here: https://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelines.
Meaning for Marriage Green Card Petitions
One’s spouse is a sponsor for the immigrant’s marriage based green card petition. In order to qualify, the spouse has to demonstrate that he or she has sufficient income to support the immigrant, if necessary, and that such immigrant will not become a public burden.
Poverty Guidelines Application
While the numbers themselves are not complicated, their use and application can be somewhat tricky.
First, the complexity lies in what can be used as income. Will gambling winnings or losses qualify towards your income? One-time sale of certain assets? Temporary employment income? Social security benefits? Unemployment benefits? Can your spouse's income be used in the calculations?
Second, the USCIS does not merely want you to meet the standards. They want you to exceed them. With a few exceptions, the USCIS qualification thresholds are 125% of the published poverty guidelines. See the table below - the right most column summarizes the USCIS acceptable income thresholds.
Third, the number of people in the household. Let us assume that you are a single person sponsoring your spouse, who happens to have two kids. However, your elderly parent also lives with you. So, for the purposes of the USCIS, you have to demonstrate sustainable income of $36 thousand pear year in order to qualify to sponsor your spouse.
These and other issues around the poverty threshold numbers, including exceptions to the income thresholds and some ways around them, are discussed in thorough detail in our e-guide, which can be downloaded here.
Poverty Guidelines: What Changed Since Last Year?
Below is the summary analysis of how numbers changed from 2015 to 2016.
We obviously observe increases in pretty much all categories, except for 7 and 8-member households. And the increases appear somewhat insignificant. The largest percentage increase applied to a single-person household, which was 0.9%. (However, for the purposes of green card application this category is irrelevant. If you are marrying another person, you and your spouse automatically become a 2-person household.) For all other categories, the largest increase was 0.6%, applicable to 2-person household. All other categories did not see a larger than 0.3% increase in the poverty thresholds.
So what does it all mean? One may ask, does it mean that it is harder to qualify for sponsoring my spouse? I recommend looking into these numbers on the relative basis. Income and poverty levels are determined by the purchasing power of the dollar, and the purchasing power is highly dependent on inflation. The official 2015 inflation metric for the United States was 0.7%. So, relative to the highest percentage increase in poverty thresholds, I argue, it is easier to qualify as a green card sponsor than it was last year.
Green Card Through Marriage Process Steps: 2016 Poverty Guidelines
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