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Documents required for the Green Card Process

When applying for your green card, whether in the United States or at a U.S. Embassy abroad, you will need to submit certain documents. Failure to provide the correct document issued by the correct agency or government department can result in a delay in the processing of your application or the denial of your application. It is imperative that the correct documents are submitted the first time to ensure timely and accurate processing of your case. While this article is not exhaustive of every document needed to prepare your case, we have included documents that often cause angst or difficulty for clients in trying to satisfy the requirements for obtaining the correct document.

It is also important to understand that any document that is not in English as the original document, must be translated into English with a certification that the translated document is a true and accurate representation of the original document and that the translator is fluent in both English and the document’s original language. Both the original document in the original language as well as the English translation of the original document must be presented. Some common documents that can cause confusion as to the correct version of the document are as follows:

  • Birth Certificates

    Every immigrant will be required to provide a certified birth certificate with his or her green card application. This includes a child who is immigrating with his parents. For family-based immigration categories, the Petitioner will also need to provide a birth certificate. Only the “unabridged” birth certificate will be accepted. Clients often do not understand that there is a difference between their “abridged” birth certificates which do not include their parents’ names, and their “unabridged” birth certificates that do include their parents’ names.

    For country-specific guidelines on how to obtain a certified birth certificate, visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/Visa-Reciprocity-and-Civil-Documents-by-Country.html

  • Divorce Decrees

    If an immigrant has terminated a prior marriage, whether through divorce or annulment, he will be required to provide a certified record of the marriage termination. If he or she has been divorced or had a marriage annulled more than once, he will need to provide a record for each individual divorce or annulment. It is important to note that USCIS does not recognize religious divorces. It will be necessary to go through a formal “civil” divorce process to ensure that the current marriage will be recognized based on the “civil” dissolution of the prior marriage.

    For country-specific guidelines on how to obtain a certified divorce or annulment record, visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/Visa-Reciprocity-and-Civil-Documents-by-Country.html

  • Police Certificates

    Green card applicants who will apply for their status inside the United States will undergo a criminal background check and therefore will not have to provide police certificates. A green card applicant who will have his interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad and who has lived in any country for six months or more after the age of 16, however, will need a police certificate from each country For country-specific guidelines on how to obtain a police certificate, visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/Visa-Reciprocity-and-Civil-Documents-by-Country.html

While other documents are required and while the documents required will vary based on the type of green card application (family based; employment based; individual petitions, etc.), this article provides some insight and guidance with regard to the documents that cause clients the most difficulty and confusion.


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