Getting a green card is a huge milestone in the lives of many immigrants who wish to establish permanent residence in the United States. However, the green card application process can be complex and time-consuming, partly because it requires the applicant (and their sponsors in some petitions) to submit various documents to prove eligibility.
For this reason, to help make the application process smoother and less stressful, it is crucial to have a comprehensive checklist of all required green card documents.
Whether you are the sponsoring spouse or beneficiary, you may need to file the following documents to increase the chances of a positive outcome for the green card process.
Green Card Documents Checklist Key Takeaways
It is important to carefully review the specific green card application requirements provided by the USCIS to ensure that all required documents are provided. Remember, the documents required for a permanent residency card application can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the applicant. Generally, the following documents are required:
- Form I-485: Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
- Government-issued photo identification, such as a passport or driver’s license
- Birth certificate (with certified translation, if required)
- Marriage certificate, if applicable (with certified translation, if required)
- Divorce decree or annulment certificate, if applicable (with certified translation, if required)
- Police clearance certificate(s) from every country where the applicant has lived for six months or more since the age of 16
- Military records, if applicable
- Medical examination results, including a completed Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record
- Two passport-style photos
- Payment of application fees
This is not a one-size fits all list. For example, if you are seeking a green card through employment, you may need to provide evidence of your employment qualifications. If you’ve been previously arrested or convicted of a crime, you may need to provide additional documents related to your criminal history.
Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status)
Form I-485 is used by individuals currently residing in the U.S. to apply for permanent residency.
As the name suggests, this form requests the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to Adjust the applicant’s status, usually from a nonimmigrant to an immigrant.
The I-485 Form requires applicants to provide personal information such as their name, address, date of birth, and immigration status, and information about their family members and employment history. In addition, applicants must undergo a biometric examination, including fingerprinting and a photo.
Lawful permanent resident card applicants must also submit supporting documentation, which we will discuss shortly below.
Once the adjustment of status petition is filed, the USCIS will review the I-485 Form and supporting documentation to determine if the applicant is eligible for permanent residency. If approved, the applicant will receive a green card, granting them the right to live and work in the United States permanently.
What Are Some Required Documents to Prove Eligibility for a Green Card?
When applying for a green card through Form I-485, an applicant must prove their eligibility for permanent residency. Here are some examples of the types of documentation the USCIS may request as proof of eligibility:
Passport and Visa
U.S.-based applicants should provide their passport and visa, showing that they reside in the United States and that they entered the country legally. If you entered the U.S. illegally and have been in the country for more than 180 days, you will need to leave the country and apply for a green card from the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country.
Employment Authorization Document
Also known as an EAD or work permit, this document may be required if the applicant currently works in the United States legally. Eligible immigrants usually obtain this document by filling out an application for employment authorization also known as a work permit application or Form I-765. This document demonstrates that they are authorized to work in the country.
If applying based on their eligibility as qualifying employees intending to immigrate to the U.S., the applicants need to provide an offer letter from their employer, labor certification (Form ETA-9089), a job description, employment verification letter, among other documents that may be required for their unique situation.
Immigration Status Documentation
Green card applicants must also show their current immigration status. One way to do this is by providing their I-94 arrival/departure record, nonimmigrant visa, or any other relevant travel document approved by the USCIS.
This requirement applies to individuals applying for a green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen or green card holder. To be approved, the marriage certificate must:
- be an original or a certified copy;
- be translated into English if it is in a language other than English, and the translation must be certified by a qualified translator; and
- include specific information about the marriage, such as the names of the spouses, the date and location of the marriage, and the name of the officiant who performed the ceremony.
Permanent resident card applicants should provide a birth certificate to establish their identity and date of birth, regardless of their country of residence when applying. The USCIS has specific requirements for what type of birth certificate is acceptable for immigration purposes.
An acceptable birth certificate must provide the following information:
- The owner’s full name
- The owner’s date and place of birth
- Both parent’s full names
- Registration date (must be within a year of your birth)
- Date of issue (can be issued at any time)
- The logo of the appropriate government agency
If you cannot access your original birth certificate for reasons beyond your control, the USCIS may allow you to use alternative documentation to prove your nationality.
The United States lawful permanent resident card applicants should provide a copy of their criminal records if any. In most cases, if applying from the United States, the applicant must attend a biometrics appointment. The USCIS will then send the applicant’s fingerprints to the FBI for screening to determine the applicant’s criminal history.
If applying from abroad, applicants may need to attend a biometrics appointment at the U.S. embassy or consulate processing their petition. This usually happens after their green card interview has been confirmed.
The USCIS may also require the applicant to provide police certificates from every place they have lived for six months or more since turning 16 years old. In some countries, the police certificate is also known as a ‘Certificate of Good Conduct’ or a ‘Police Clearance Certificate.’
Certain U.S.-based applicants must provide copies of their tax records (including the most recent tax year) to show that they have been paying taxes to the United States government. However, this only applies if the immigrant has income that is subject to tax, such as salaries, wages, tips, dividends, fellowship grants, etc.
Alien Registration Receipt Card applicants should also provide any required medical documents, such as a report of a medical examination conducted for the green card application. Here is a step-by-step guide to the medical exam for a green card.
This includes proof of continuous residence in the U.S. since before January 1, 1972. It may also include proof of continuous residence in the U.S. for a specific period, such as rental agreements, utility bills, or school records.
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
This category allows certain children who are victims of abuse, neglect, or abandonment to apply for permanent residency in the U.S. However, the U.S. government must establish proof of eligibility and that reunification with one parent or legal guardian is impossible.
Two Passport-Style Photos
Green card applicants must submit two passport-style photos as part of their application. These photos must meet specific requirements to be accepted by the USCIS. For instance, they must:
- be in color;
- printed on thin paper with a glossy finish;
- measure 2 inches by 2 inches;
- have a white or off-white background.
In addition, the applicant’s head should be centered in the frame, facing forward, and without any covering unless for religious reasons (if worn regularly). They should also have a neutral facial expression, with their eyes open and looking directly at the camera.
Proof of Any Name Changes
This only applies if the applicant changed their name at some point in the past.
The fees associated with a green card application can vary depending on the specific type of application being submitted, including the age and unique circumstances of the applicant. For instance, immigrants living in the United States usually pay a higher fee than those applying from abroad. In addition, some U.S.-based applicants may qualify for a waiver of the application fees.
Here are some of the most common fees associated with a green card application and how they apply based on the applicant’s location, as of February 2023.
Green Card Application Fees for Applicants Living in the U.S.
U.S.-based applicants usually pay $1760 in total. Here is a breakdown of these fees:
- Form I-130 processing fee: $535
- Form I-485 processing fee: $1140
- Biometrics fee: $85
Green Card Application Fees for Applicants Living Abroad
Abroad-based U.S. permanent card applicants typically pay $1200 to apply for a green card through a process called consular processing. Here’s a breakdown of the fees involved:
- Form I-130 application fee: $535
- Form I-864 application fee: $120
- US Department of State processing fee: $325
- USCIS immigrant fee: $220
As mentioned earlier, certain individuals may be exempted from the USCIS immigrant fees. Examples include the following:
- Immigrant children who gain entry into the U.S. under the orphan or Hague adoption programs;
- Iraqi and Afghan special immigrants;
- Other Afghan nationals (through Sept. 30, 2023);
- Returning lawful permanent residents (SB-1s); and
- K nonimmigrants. A K nonimmigrant is a fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen who is coming to the U.S. to marry and intends to apply for permanent residency.
In addition, individuals who were paroled into the U.S. due to a humanitarian crisis are not required to pay biometric and Form I-485 fees.
Form I-601, Waiver of Inadmissibility
You will need to fill out an Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility if you are inadmissible to the United States based on certain grounds, such as immigration violations, criminal history, or health-related issues.
The form requires applicants to provide information about the grounds of their inadmissibility, the reasons why a waiver should be granted, and any supporting evidence. Applicants must also pay a filing fee and undergo a biometric examination, which includes fingerprinting and a photo.
The purpose of this form is to seek a waiver on the inadmissibility grounds, allowing you to be eligible for admission into the United States as a nonimmigrant even if you have certain criminal convictions or you’ve been previously deported from the United States. However, remember that this waiver is discretionary, meaning that the U.S. government has the authority to decide whether to grant it or not.
The decision to grant a waiver is up to the discretion of USCIS. The decision is typically based on the nature and severity of the grounds of inadmissibility, the individual’s family and community ties in the U.S., and the potential harm to the individual or their family if the waiver is not granted.
Not Sure Which Documents You Will Need to Apply for a Permanent Resident Card?
If you are unsure about which documents you need for your USCIS application, you can check the USCIS website for information specific to your situation.
The USCIS provides detailed guidance on which forms and evidence are required for each type of application. Alternatively, consider consulting an experienced immigration attorney who will answer your questions and guide you on the forms and documents you will need for your specific situation.
An experienced immigration attorney can help you make your green card application as strong as possible.
As the Beneficiary Spouse, What Forms and Evidence Must Be Submitted to Obtain a Permanent Resident Status?
As the spouse seeking a green card, you will need to submit Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status), along with other supporting documentation such as evidence of your relationship with your spouse, including a copy of your marriage certificate, joint financial documents, and other evidence of cohabitation, as explained in this article.
What Is the Marriage Green Card Document Checklist?
Examples of documents that may be required to prove your eligibility for a marriage-based green card application include:
- Your marriage certificate;
- Proof of your current immigration status;
- Your spouse’s certificate of citizenship or permanent residency;
- Evidence of your relationship;
- Financial documents.
What Is Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary?
Supplemental information for a spouse beneficiary refers to extra documentation or evidence required to support your green card application. This may include but is not limited to additional evidence of your relationship, cohabitation, or financial support.
Where Should I Submit Supporting Documents?
The exact location to submit your supporting documents for your application depends on the type of application. Here is a step-by-step guide on where to send your green card application and supporting documents.