Affidavit of Support Exemptions Q&A: How Does ’40 Qualifying Quarters’ Work?

Mar 31, 2023 | Family-based Visas, Resources

What is an Affidavit of Support?

An Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) is required for many intending immigrants. It is essentially a legally binding contract stating that the signer agrees to “sponsor,” or financially support, the intending immigrant once he or she becomes a lawful permanent resident.

What are ‘40 qualifying quarters’?

Often in family-based immigration, the sponsor is the petitioner who filed an immigrant petition on behalf of the intending immigrant. The sponsor’s responsibility usually lasts until the intending immigrant (family member or other individual) either becomes a U.S. citizen or is credited with 40 qualifying quarters of work, or Social Security “credits” (usually 10 years). An Affidavit of Support might not be needed if the intending immigrant already has 40 quarters of work.

[1]The Social Security Administration (SSA) notes that the amount of earnings it takes to earn a credit may change each year. As of 2023, a person earns one Social Security credit for every $1,640 in covered earnings each year. A person must earn $6,560 to get the maximum four credits for the year.

How can an intending immigrant accumulate 40 quarters?

There are several ways:

  • By working for 40 quarters (fulfilling requirements set by SSA, after which an Affidavit of Support is no longer needed).
  • By counting work done by a U.S. spouse during their marriage toward the 40 qualifying quarters. This can be done in combination; for example, the intending immigrant may have worked 25 quarters and the spouse may have worked 15 quarters; together, this adds up to 40 quarters. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services notes that if a person is claiming credit for quarters worked by a spouse, the person may not count any quarter in which the spouse was receiving means-tested public benefits.
  • By counting quarters worked by a parent while the person was under 18 years of age. As with the requirement above for spouses, a person may not count any quarter in which a parent was receiving means-tested public benefits.

What happens after 40 quarters are accumulated?

If an intending immigrant already has 40 qualifying quarters of work before obtaining permanent residence, he or she should file the Form I-864W instead of the I-864 to claim exemption from the Affidavit of Support requirement. If the person previously was subject to an Affidavit of Support but subsequently accumulates the 40 quarters of work, he or she no longer needs the Affidavit, and the sponsor is no longer obligated to financially support the person (although the sponsor may still be responsible for up to 10 years after the person becomes a U.S. citizen for debts incurred before that happens, such as for certain means-tested benefits that the government may seek to recover, even if the sponsor and sponsored person are spouses who divorce).

The intending immigrant should include with the I-864W all SSA forms necessary to establish that the person has or can receive credit for 40 quarters of coverage, USCIS says.

Contact your WR attorney for advice and help in specific situations.

[1] An alien who entered the united states on H-2A, temporary agricultural worker visa and worked legally for five years, followed by two years out-of-status, followed by one year of legal work under temporary protected status, followed by two more years work out-of-status, making regular social security payments even during those periods of unauthorized work, should still be able to include income from authorized employment.

By: Christine Hanson


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