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Possible to get work permit without I-134 or equivalent?

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Tried but failed to find the answer to this one.

I'm currently working on OPT following F1 visa status.

My partner is a student with no income.

My income last year does not meet the minimum requirement for sponsorship, neither will this year's income (although it will be close).

Neither of us have substantial savings. I do own a property in my home country, no mortgage, worth approx $100K, but it would not be easy to sell from here.

There is no alternative sponsor we could use.

If I understand correctly, if we married, the affidavit of support would be required before I could apply for a green card(?) But I heard from somebody recently that it's possible to apply for a work permit *without* the affidavit. Is there any truth to that claim? The OPT restrictions are making it hard to find anything long term enough to get to the point where I could self-sponsor.

Thanks for any help, and sorry if I've picked the wrong section to post in.

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