What is Domicile?

What Evidence do I Need to Prove Domicile for my Green Card Application?

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What is Domicile and how is it Established?

For immigration and tax purposes, “domicile” refers to the country where you reside with the intent of making it your permanent home. You can only have ONE domicile. It can be where you presently reside permanently and long-term, or where recently moved with the intention of making it your permanent home.

You must show that you have “domicile” in the United States, that is, that it is your permanent home, if you sponsor a spouse and family member for a green card. The Form I-864 (“Affidavit of Support”) domicile proof instructions are provided in this article.

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What Does Establishing Domicile Mean and Why is it Required?

The U.S. citizen or permanent resident supporting the visa application must demonstrate physical presence inside the United States or a U.S. territory as part of the Form I-864 Affidavit of Support process. As a matter of policy, the U.S. government does not allow your spouse or family member to obtain permanent residence, if you (the Sponsor) do not have U.S. domicile.

If you (the sponsor) presently live abroad, you must show that you have significant ties to the US and that you have the intention to do so. In certain cases, even if you have been working for specific American companies while residing overseas, you may still be able to claim U.S. domicile.

Anyone who sponsors a green card based on a marriage or family relationship must reside in the country.

The National Visa Center (NVC) or the American embassy or consulate where you submit your application may need proof that any time spent living abroad during the last two years was temporary and that you have firm intentions to return to the United States.

If not, you may need to provide evidence that you intend to re-establish your residence either ahead of time or concurrently with the green card applicant’s arrival in the country.

How Can I Prove U.S. Domicile?

To Recap: your “U.S. domicile” means intent to and actually maintain a permanent home in the US.  The good news is your domicile can change in an instant – as long as you have sufficient evidence of the same. The country of domicile is decided on a case-by-case basis, and you cannot show you have a US domicile with only the intent to move. You must meet the physical component as well and will have to overcome the Consulate officer’s challenge with evidence – intent to move is not sufficient. We have to show in fact that you are NOW domiciled in the US.

You, the sponsoring partner or family member, may still be able to satisfy the domicile requirement even if you and your partner have been residing abroad if you can demonstrate the following:

  1. Your principal home is still in the United States, and you just temporarily resided abroad.
  2. The immigrant visa applicant intends to arrive in and establish residence in the U.S. before or on the same day as your return to the U.S.
  3. You work for an American company and are positioned overseas, or the U.S. government or American institution abroad.

You must send Form I-864 and supporting documentation to the National Visa Center. If not, you may provide a copy of your proof of residence to the consular official during your green card interview for consideration.

Living abroad temporarily:

Many U.S. citizens and permanent residents spend part of their time living abroad. You may need to demonstrate that you still have ties to the United States and that you plan to return after a certain, definite, length of time, even if there is no time restriction on how long you may stay abroad before you can no longer claim domicile in the United States. You may use the following as instances of acceptable proof:

  • A history of voting in the U.S.
  • Federal, state, and municipal tax records, and payment of bills
  • Evidence you own or lease Property 
  • School matriculation/enrollment records for your children
  • Medical records showing your primary doctors are in the U.S.
  • U.S.-based bank, brokerage, and/or investment account
  • Evidence of a long-term postal address
  • Community ties and extra curricular activities
  • Evidence you are selling your property abroad or your lease abroad is expiring and not being renewed
  • Other evidence, such as documentation of a brief stay permitted by another government or a short study-abroad authorization

How do I prove that I want to live in the United States?

If you cannot claim residence because you are outside of the U.S. when you apply for a green card, you may demonstrate your intention to return and do so. This may be done before or concurrently with the applicant’s arrival that you are supporting, but not after.

You may provide many sorts of proof to demonstrate your intention to establish domicile (i.e. U.S. residence with the intent to make it your permanent home), such as:

  • Opening a bank account
  • Money transfer to a United States bank account
  • Evidence that you are looking for work in the United States and/or have secured work in the U.S.
  • Evidence of attempting to lease or purchase a home in the U.S., such as a flat or a house
  • Enrolling your kids in American schools
  • Requesting a Social Security number
  • Elections at the municipal, state, or federal levels

What additional situations permit a U.S. person to maintain their U.S. domicile while residing abroad?

If you are an American citizen temporarily stationed working for/with one of the following, even if you live abroad:

  • The U.S. government
  • A U.S. research institution (as recognized by the Attorney General)
  • A U.S. company working on expanding its business with other countries
  • An international public organization that the United States is a member of either by treaty or law
  • A U.S. interdenominational missionary group or religious organization

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