Are you an immigrant applying for a U.S. green card? If so, you may be required to submit reference letters written by individuals who know you well and can speak positively about your character and integrity.
This article covers everything you need to know about reference letters for green card applications, including how to write, who should write, what to include in the letter and many more granular details.
What is a Reference Letter for Green Card Application?
A reference letter for an immigration application is a type of letter written by someone who knows the applicant and can attest to their character. In the letter, the writer describes the applicant’s good moral character, work ethic, and other positive characteristics.
The goal of this letter is to improve the applicant’s chances of obtaining a green card. However, this letter alone is not considered an eligibility requirement by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS); it only supports the applicant’s petition to become a lawful permanent resident.
Who Can Write a Reference Letter for a Green Card?
The following are examples of individuals who may write this letter:
- Your current or former employer
- A colleague or professional contact
- A personal friend or family member
- A landlord or other individual with whom you have a close relationship
When choosing who to ask for a reference letter, it is important to select an individual who can speak positively about your strong character. The individual should also be willing to provide their contact information to the USCIS in case the government agency wants to contact them with more questions.
Keep in mind that there are usually no known restrictions on who can write this letter. However, it’s always advisable to choose someone who knows you well and will have positive things to say about your character.
What to Include in a Reference Letter for a Green Card?
Here are a few key pointers to keep in mind when writing a reference letter for a green card:
- The reference letter should identify the person’s name or persons providing the recommendation;
- It should also include the name and contact information of the individual writing the letter and the applicant;
- Ensure that the reference letter is addressed to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and includes the correct filing address;
- In addition, the writer should describe the nature of their relationship with the green card applicant. Then, they’ll mention the positive characteristics of the applicant and why the USCIS should award them a green card;
- Avoid templates that offer generalizations. Instead, the writer should sound as natural as possible and demonstrate their relationship to the applicant;
- Don’t forget to include a signature and signing dates;
- If possible, have the document notarized.
Sample Reference Letter for a Green Card
Here’s a simplified recommendation letter sample:
February 2, 2023
To The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services,
[Insert correct filing address]
Re: [Insert applicant’s name]
To whom it may concern [or Dear Honorable immigration Judge],
My name is [insert name], and I am a U.S. citizen. I have known [insert applicant’s name] for [describe how long you’ve known the applicant]. My residence is [provide your residence information, including your contact information).
[Describe the relationship between you and the applicant, including their character and notable achievements. Also, include any relevant information the immigration official might want to know about. For example, if you were the best man in the applicant’s wedding, mention that in this section.
In addition, briefly mention why you think the applicant deserves to live permanently in the United States. The whole point of this section is to demonstrate that you know the applicant and that you’re not just writing generic content acquired from templates on the internet.]
[Include this statement “I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.”]
[Sign off by thanking the reader and describe how they can reach you if they have any questions about the applicant.]
It’s highly unlikely that the USCIS will contact you for further information about the applicant. But offering your contact information creates a sense of transparency and makes your reference letter more credible.
How to Get a Reference Letter for a Green Card?
Although there are no known restrictions on who should write the reference letter for a green card, it is important to keep a few things in mind, as discussed below.
Choose someone who knows you well and can speak positively about you. An employer is a good choice, but it’s even better if you find a family member or friend who’s willing to write the letter.
- Note: there are some exceptions when it comes to close family members, as we’ll discuss later in this article.
Make sure the person you choose is willing to write the letter before providing them with any information about what it should say. This lowers their chances of backing out later if they don’t feel comfortable writing what you want them to.
When asking someone to write an immigration reference letter, be respectful and considerate of their time and energy. Remember that they are doing you a favor, and be sure to express your appreciation in advance.
Give the person who agrees to write your letter as much time as possible to draft it. However, you should also give them a deadline since immigration processes are time-sensitive.
Remember to provide any relevant information that will help the person writing the letter.
How Many Letters of Recommendation Do You Need for Green Card?
Although the USCIS does not specify the number of reference letters required for such petitions, it’s a good idea to have between 3 to 4 letters when submitting your petition for permanent residency in the United States. This will give the USCIS officers reviewing your case a better idea of who you are and what kind of person you would be if you become a permanent resident of the United States.
Why Does Immigration Ask for a Letter of Recommendation for a Green Card?
When you apply for a green card, the immigration officials reviewing your applications do not know you personally. For this reason, the letter of recommendation for immigration gives them an idea of who you are other than the contents of your application, such as Form I-485.
In other words, this letter allows the immigration official to judge whether or not you’re a great addition to the U.S. community.
Do Immigration Reference Letters Need Notarized?
No, immigration reference letters do not need to be notarized. However, the letter must be signed by the person writing the letter and include that person’s contact information. Although you don’t necessarily need to have this document notarized, a notary makes the document look more authentic, improving your chances of being approved for a green card aka a Permanent Resident Card.
Also, with or without a notary, remember to include the following statement in the letter.
“I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.”
Does USCIS Verify Letters of Recommendation?
It all depends on the unique circumstances of that particular immigration petition. If deemed necessary, the USCIS may contact the person who wrote the immigration letter of recommendation to confirm its contents. USCIS may also request additional information from the individual who wrote the letter. Examples of additional information that may be required include:
- their relationship with the applicant;
- the duration of the relationship;
- whether they are aware of any reason why the applicant would not be a good candidate for a green card.
To limit the chances of the USCIS verifying a letter of recommendation, ensure that all letters of recommendation are from individuals who can speak positively about your character and abilities.
Also, remember that the USCIS will not approve your green card application simply because the recommendation letter was well-written or because the writer had positive things to say about you.
Instead, you must meet the primary eligibility criteria for a green card. Therefore, the recommendation letter is only meant to add more weight to your application, but it’s not used to decide your eligibility.
Can a Sibling Write a Reference Letter for a Green Card?
Yes, a sibling can write a reference letter for your green card application, but that’s not advisable. This is because immediate family members can be biased, and the USCIS will likely not consider their recommendation.
However, this does not mean that family members should not write a green card recommendation letter at all. Each immigration case is different, and it all narrows down to the specifics of your case.
For instance, suppose you intend to apply for a marriage green card. In that case, your spouse’s family can write the recommendation letter because they’re not your blood relatives. The bottom line is that anyone can write this letter, but to build more credibility and trust, you should not choose your direct relatives, including siblings.
And if you’re unsure of who to contact to write this letter, consult an experienced immigration attorney familiar with U.S. immigration law. The attorney will review the unique circumstances of your case and identify the right individuals to write the reference letter.
Can a Resident Write a Letter of Recommendation?
Yes, a U.S. resident can write an immigration support letter for your petition to become a permanent resident. The letter of support must meet the USCIS requirements.
What is a National Interest Waiver (NIW)?
Generally, when applying for a second-preference employment-based immigrant visa, you will need a job offer and a labor certification aka PERM or Program Electronic Review Management. However, you may be able to waive this requirement by proving that your immigration to the United States would be in the country’s ‘national interest.’
To obtain an NIW, you may need a reference letter to demonstrate that you have:
- Contributions of major significance in the field of endeavor;
- Sustained national or international acclaim;
- Been asked to review articles for many leading scientific journals;
- Membership in a professional organization; and
- A professional license to practice in your particular field.
How Long Should a Green Card Recommendation Letter Be?
There’s no specified length for a green card recommendation letter. However, the shorter, the better. Also, keep in mind that it’s the content that matters, not the length. The USCIS will not approve an application just because the letter of recommendation is several pages long.
In fact, most immigration experts don’t recommend writing long letters for such purposes. Remember, there’s revealing too much information could mean having to answer even more questions about your eligibility.
Instead, only focus on what’s relevant to the individual’s application and avoid stating unnecessary information that could jeopardize the application.
What Other Documents Should I List Together With My Green Card Reference Letter?
When applying for a green card, you may need to provide various documents including a reference letter, passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, police clearance certificates, educational and employment documents, and financial records.
The specific documents required may vary depending on your situation and the type of green card you are applying for. It is important to carefully review the USCIS requirements and seek advice from an immigration attorney if necessary.