Information on Poverty Guidelines

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The poverty guidelines are a simplified version of the federal poverty thresholds used for administrative purposes — for instance, determining financial eligibility for certain federal programs. They are issued each year in the Federal Register by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The poverty guidelines may be used as soon as they are published in the Federal Register each year — usually about mid-February — unless a program has chosen to make them effective at a later date. To determine when the poverty guidelines are effective for a particular program, one must contact the office or organization that administers that program.  

The HHS poverty guidelines, or percentage multiples of them (such as 125 percent, 150 percent, or 185 percent), are used as an eligibility criterion by a number of federal programs.

The poverty guidelines are important in immigration law in connection with the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, used in connection with family-based green card cases and some employment-based green card cases. The Form I-864 Affidavit of Support is required to overcome the "public charge" provisions in all family-sponsored cases. This information provided on the I-864 is essentially proof that the sponsored individual will not become a financial burden on the U.S. government. All family-based sponsors must submit this form, regardless of the education, employment, or personal wealth of the sponsored individual.

The I-864 is also required in those employment-based cases involving companies where certain relatives of the foreign national beneficiary own 5% or more of the sponsoring business.

Poverty Guidelines:

HHS Poverty Guidelines for 2011

Prior HHS Poverty Guidelines and Federal Register References

USCIS Policy Regarding Form I-864, Affidavit of Support   

I-864P, Form for Poverty Guidelines 

Poverty Guidelines and Poverty Measurement:

Frequently Asked Questions  (FAQs) on the Poverty Guidelines and Poverty

Further Resources  Information on on Poverty Measurement, Poverty Lines, and Their History

The Census Bureau's Poverty Home Page - The Census Bureau prepares the statistics on the number of people in poverty in the United States

ASPE (The Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation) research on poverty


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