A U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident petitioner who is not domiciled in the United States cannot sponsor the greencard. The law requires that sponsors be domiciled in any of the states in the United States, the District of Columbia, or any territory or possession of the United States.
A joint sponsor cannot be authorized in cases where the petitioner cannot be a sponsor by virtue of domicile. Before there can be a joint sponsor, the petitioner must first meet all requirements for being a sponsor (age, domicile, and citizenship) except those relating to income.
Domicile is a complex issue and must be determined on a case-to-case basis. To qualify as a sponsor, a petitioner who is residing temporarily abroad must have a principal residence in the U.S. with the intent to maintain that residence for the foreseeable future. Legal permanent resident sponsors must further demonstrate that they have maintained their legal permanent resident (LPR) status. A U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse or dependent who has maintained a residence in the U.S. and/or spouse or parent works in one of the categories listed below would also qualify as a sponsor.
If your mailing address and/or place of residence is not in the United States, but your country of domicile is the United States, you must attach a written explanation and documentary evidence indicating how you meet the domicile requirement.
Living abroad temporarily
Many U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents reside outside the United States on a temporary basis, usually for work or family reasons. Temporary is a relative term and may cover an extended period residing abroad. In order to be considered domiciled in the U.S., the sponsor must establish to the consular officer’s satisfaction that the sponsor left the U.S. for a limited and not indefinite period of time, intended to maintain a U.S. domicile, and has evidence of continued ties to the U.S. You can show the continued ties to the U.S. by providing proof of your voting record in the U.S., proof of paying U.S. state or local taxes, proof of having property in the U.S., proof of maintaining bank or investment accounts in the U.S., or proof of having a permanent mailing address in the U.S. Other proof can be evidence that you are a student studying abroad or that a foreign government has authorized a temporary stay.
Certain type of employment
Note that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulation provides that sponsors who can show that they had a domicile in the United States, but are now living temporarily abroad because of certain types of employment, shall be considered to have retained their domicile in the United States.
A sponsor retains his or her domicile for the following types of employment:
- Employment by the U.S. government
- Employment by an American institution of research recognized by the Secretary of Homeland Security
- Employment by a U.S. firm or corporation engaged in part or in whole of the development of foreign trade and commerce with the United States, or a subsidiary of such a firm
- Employment with a public international organization in which the United States participates by treaty or statute
- Employment by a religious denomination/group having a bona fide organization within the United States and is stationed abroad with that religious denomination
- Employment as a missionary by a religious denomination/group or by an interdenominational mission organization within the United States and is stationed abroad with that religious denomination
Good faith reestablishment of domicile in the U.S.
In cases where the sponsor has clearly not maintained a domicile in the U.S., the question becomes when the sponsor can be deemed to have re-established a U.S. residence. To do this, the sponsor must have taken a credible combination of steps to make the U.S. his principal place of abode. Such steps may include opening a U.S. bank account, transferring funds to the U.S.,making investments in the U.S., applying for a social security number, voting in local, state, or federal elections, finding U.S. employment, locating a place to live (a house, an apartment, or accommodations with family or a friend), registering children in U.S. schools, or other evidence of U.S. residence. The sponsor should also have made other arrangements to relinquish residence in the foreign country. It is not necessary for the sponsor to precede the sponsored family members to the U.S. to re-establish residence and domicile provided that the sponsor has taken the type of concrete steps outlined above. On the affidavit of support, attach proof of the steps you have taken to establish domicile as described above.
It is important to note in such cases that a sponsored immigrant may not enter the United States prior to the sponsor’s return to take up residence. He or she must either travel to the United States with the sponsor or at some date after the sponsor’s entry into the U.S.
There may be other circumstances in which a sponsor can show that his or her presence abroad is clearly of a temporary nature, so that the sponsor can be found still to have a domicile in the United States. For example, persons who are abroad temporarily to study, teach, or engage in other activities that do not meet the requirements of Section 316(b), 317, or 319(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (listed in the preceding paragraph) may nevertheless have a domicile in the United States if they can satisfy the consular officer that they did not, in fact, give up their domicile in the United States and establish a domicile abroad.
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