The U.S. Domicile Requirement for Sponsors

February 11, 2016

“I live overseas with my intending immigrant relative”

A relatively uncommon but nonetheless important situation arises where the petitioner in a family-based immigrant visa application resides overseas with the beneficiary. In order for the petitioner’s affidavit of support to be accepted by the U.S. Department of State, the petitioner must demonstrate a U.S. domicile or establish a U.S. domicile prior to the beneficiary’s admission to the United States.

What might cause a petitioner to be overseas? A job is the most likely answer. The government recognizes this and considers some groups of people to be automatically domiciled in the United States if they are overseas due to employment obligations:

1. U.S. government employees
2. Employees of some American research institutions
3. Employees of U.S. companies that are involved in the development of trade and commerce with the United States
4. Employees of certain international organizations that the U.S. participates in due to treaty obligations or by law
5. Work of a religious nature as a priest or missionary for religious denominations having a bona fide organization in the United States

Petitioners that don’t fit into an employment-related category described above can avoid a domicile problem by showing that their foreign residence is temporary and they have maintained their domicile in the United States. The focus here is on demonstrating that the petitioner has maintained ties in the United States in different ways – by maintaining bank accounts and financial assets, owning property in the U.S., paying U.S. taxes, voting in U.S. elections, and having a permanent address in the U.S. Students studying abroad will often fall in this category of petitioners.

What if none of the above applies to a petitioner? The government allows petitioners to show that they will reestablish a U.S. domicile prior to their beneficiary’s admission to the United States as a permanent resident. Petitioners must take verifiable steps – able to be documented – that can include the acceptance of a job in the U.S., closing on a home purchase, signing a lease, and registering children in U.S. schools. Affidavits from U.S. family members of the petitioner may also be of value.

If you are an overseas petitioner contemplating a family petition, please contact us for a consultation. A well-documented explanation of domicile issues can reduce the likelihood of processing delays and problems at the beneficiary’s visa interview.

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