What Documents Do I Need for a Green Card?

A lack of sufficient documentation is one of the most common reasons the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may deny your green card petitions. To avoid this, it is always advisable to ensure that you have the right documentation to support your green card petition.

It’s important to note that the exact documents you need for the green card process will depend on the eligibility category you are applying under and your individual circumstances.

For instance, an individual applying for a marriage green card will need different documentation (e.g., proof of marriage) than one applying for an employment green card (e.g., proof of employment or job offer). 

Let’s discuss some general documents you will likely need to submit with your green card application

Documents You Need For a Green Card:

You will need the following documents when applying for a U.S. green card: 

1) Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status

You’ll need to fill in Form I-485, if you are a foreign national already living in the United States and wish to adjust your status to that of a lawful permanent resident (LPR), aka green card holder. This form is used to apply for permanent residence based on family relationships, employment, asylum, or other special provisions.

When filling out this form, you will need to provide personal biographic information, immigration history, eligibility for the green card category you are applying under, and other relevant details. In addition, you must submit supporting documents demonstrating your eligibility for permanent residence.

For example, when applying for a marriage green card, you will need various supporting documents, including your birth and marriage certificates, proof of valid nonimmigrant status, evidence of a bona fide relationship with your U.S. spouse, etc. 

2) A Copy of Your Birth Certificate or Passport

You will need to submit a copy of your birth certificate to establish your identity and date of birth. Bear in mind that the specific requirements for the birth certificate can vary depending on the country where the birth occurred and the state or territory where the certificate was issued.

Your birth certificate must be an original or certified copy issued by the appropriate government authority. The certificate must include your full name, date of birth, place of birth, and your parents’ full names. It should also include a raised seal, the registrar’s signature, and the date of issue. 

Please note that if the birth certificate is in a language other than English, you must provide a translated copy. The translation must be certified by a competent authority, such as a certified translator. 

Suppose your birth certificate is not available for a reason beyond your control. In that case, you may be able to provide other documentation to establish your identity and date of birth, such as a passport, a baptismal certificate, or an affidavit from a relative or another person with personal knowledge of your birth.

3) A Copy of Your Passport Photos

When applying to become a permanent resident of the .U.S, you will need to submit passport-style photos and your application. The photos must meet certain requirements set by the USCIS.

To meet the U.S. visa photo requirements, the photo should be 2 x 2 inches, in color with a white or off-white background. The photo should be well-lit with no shadows on the face and show the face covering around 50% of the picture.

Wearing normal clothing is recommended, and hats or head coverings should be worn for religious purposes only. Glasses should only be worn for medical reasons, and the photo should be high quality, saved in JPEG format and less than 240Kb. The photo must have been taken within 30 days of the filing date.

Depending on your circumstances, there may be additional green card photo requirements or restrictions. For this reason, it is always advisable to review the instructions for your specific green card category to ensure that your photos meet all requirements.

3) A Copy of Your Current Visa, if Applicable

When applying for a green card from within the United States, you must prove that you entered the U.S. legally. A valid U.S. visa is a great example of proof of legal entry.

A U.S. visa is an official travel document or endorsement placed in a foreign national’s passport by a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad. This document allows the individual to travel to the United States and apply for admission to the country at the point of entry.

The visa stamp does not guarantee admission to the U.S.; instead, it permits the individual to seek entry at a port of entry, where a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will determine if the individual meets the requirements for admission.

4) Evidence of your Eligibility

You will also need to provide evidence for the green card category you are applying under. Examples of such evidence include a valid marriage certificate if applying for a marriage green card or a job offer and labor certification if applying through employment. 

5) Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record

You will also need Form I-693 to support your green card application. This document provides a record of a foreign national’s medical examination and vaccination history. 

The USCIS requires this form as part of the immigration process for individuals applying for permanent residency, including those seeking adjustment of status within the United States or those applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

The Form I-693 is typically completed by a USCIS-approved physician, also known as a civil surgeon. The government doctor performs a medical examination of the green card applicant to ensure that they are not inadmissible on medical grounds. 

The green card medical examination process usually includes reviewing the applicant’s medical history, a physical examination, and any necessary laboratory tests. The physician will also review the applicant’s vaccination records to ensure they have received all required vaccinations.

After the medical examination is complete, the physician will complete and sign Form I-693 and provide a copy to the applicant in a sealed envelope. The applicant must then submit the sealed envelope to USCIS as part of their application for permanent residence.

6) Form I-864, Affidavit of Support 

Form I-864, also known as the Affidavit of Support, is required for most family-based immigration applications and some employment-based immigration applications. The form shows that the intending immigrant has adequate financial support in the United States and will not become a public charge.

The Affidavit of Support helps demonstrate that the petitioner, or the person sponsoring the intending immigrant, has sufficient income or assets to support the intending immigrant at an income level at or above 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. 

To prove this, the petitioner must provide detailed information about their income, employment, and assets, and agree to provide financial support to the intending immigrant if they are unable to support themselves.

7) A Police Certificate 

Also known as a Certificate of Good Conduct in some countries, this document provides a record of your criminal history, if any. The USCIS will require you to provide this certificate from every country you have lived in for over 6 months. 

Background checks are a necessary part of the green card application process because the U.S. government wants to ensure that individuals who are applying for permanent residency are not a threat to national security or public safety. The background check is designed to identify any criminal history, immigration violations, or other potential security risks.

The purpose of the green card background check is to ensure that the individual meets the eligibility criteria and is admissible to the United States as a permanent resident.

Other Additional Documentation to Support Your Immigration Petition

The list of required documents varies depending on your eligibility category. To put it into perspective, let’s discuss some additional documents you may need during your petition. 

1) Green Card Employment Verification Letter

You will need this letter if applying for a green card through employment or if you are the sponsor of a potential employment green card beneficiary. As the name suggests, the letter verifies your credentials and employment history. 

Read More | Green Card Employment Verification Letter, Explained

2) Good Reference Letter for Green Card Application

A good reference letter for a green card application provides detailed information about your qualifications, work history, and personal character. The letter should come from someone who has worked closely with you, such as a current or former employer, supervisor, or colleague. 

The letter should include an introduction, details about the applicant, examples of achievements, personal character, and closing remarks. The green card reference letter should be written by someone who knows the applicant well, be signed and dated, and include the writer’s contact information.

3) Green Card Cover Letter

The purpose of the green card cover letter is to introduce the applicant to the USCIS and provide an overview of the contents of the application. Although this letter is not usually required, it makes it easier for the USCIS official reviewing your petition to navigate the provided documents and information. It is generally considered a ‘good practice’ to have a green card cover letter. 

Bottom Line

To obtain a green card, different supporting documents are required, depending on the applicant’s eligibility category. These documents may include waivers, bank statements, court records, and more. Missing important documents can lead to a Request For Evidence (RFE) and a longer processing time. It is recommended to seek help from an experienced immigration attorney or a certified green card filing service to avoid this.


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