Often a U.S. Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident lives abroad and wants to sponsor a family member for an immigrant visa or green card. A question often arises: does the sponsor have to live in the U.S. to file the petition for the relative? The answer: technically, yes, but the sponsor can prove “intent to domicile” in the U.S. even while still living overseas.
Section 213A of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of the United States of America requires that in order to sponsor an alien for legal permanent resident status (green card) in the United States, the sponsor must be domiciled in the United States.
“Domicile” means the place where a sponsor has his or her principal residence, with the intention to maintain that residence for the foreseeable future.
Proving or Establishing Domicile
To prove, establish or reestablish domicile, a sponsor must set up a principal residence in the United States. This would entail obtaining a residence (house or apartment) and taking up physical residence. There is no minimum time required to establish residence, but a credible demonstration of an actual residence in the United States is required.
“Intent to Domicile” for U.S. Citizens Returning from Overseas
A convincing combination of the following types of action might be considered as an indication of a U.S. citizen’s “intent to domicile” in the U.S.:
- Establishing an address in the United States
- Setting up and maintaining bank accounts in the United States
- Transferring funds to the United States
- Making and maintaining investments in the United States
- Seeking employment in the United States
- Applying for a social security number
- Voting in U.S. local, state, or federal elections
- Enrolling children in U.S. schools
- Paying U.S. income taxes
- Taking steps to relinquish residency in a foreign country
*The domiciliary requirement applies to the petitioner, sponsor and joint sponsor(s)
Domicile is a complex issue and is determined on a case-by-case basis. The burden of proving domicile lies with the U.S. citizen sponsor, who must offer evidence sufficient for the adjudicating officer to make a finding. A finding regarding domicile is an evidentiary question that will be unique to each applicant, and it is within the delegated authority of the consular or USCIS officer to make such a determination at his or her professional discretion.