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What Documents Are Required To Establish Your Eligibility For Lawful Permanent Resident Status In The US?

If you are currently in the US and planning to apply for ‘lawful permanent resident status’, otherwise known as a ‘green card’, you will need to ensure that you carefully prepare your I-485 form and supply all of the necessary documentation establishing your eligibility. In this article, we will explain which documents you may need to provide in order to support your application for permanent resident status in the United States.

Filing Your I-485 Application Form

When filing your application for lawful permanent resident status in the US, you will be asked to tick a checklist to ensure you have completed all items required of you. This includes the item “I have included all of the required documentation listed in these Instructions and in the following Additional Instructions (if any) relating to my specific immigrant category”.

It is essential that you review the I-485 form guidance published by USCIS, as this will outline any specific guidance for your immigrant category.

What Is The Required Documentation For The I-485 Form?

It cannot be over-emphasised how important it is to provide each item of documentation with your I-485 application as not doing so may risk a refusal. The guidance states, “You must submit all evidence requested in these instructions with your application. If you fail to submit the required evidence, USCIS may reject or deny your application for failure to submit requested evidence or supporting documents in accordance with 8 CFR 103.2(b)(1) and these Instructions. Failure to submit all required evidence and documentation when filing Form I-485 may also delay the processing of your application and any related applications based on Form I-485, such as Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, or Form I-131, Application for Travel Document”.

The documents you will need to supply to USCIS to support your case are as follows (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Identity photos – USCIS will require two recent identical colour passport-style photographs of yourself, measuring 2 x 2”, with a white to off-white background, printed on thin paper with a glossy finish, which are unmounted and unretouched.
  • Government-Issued Identity Document with Photograph – this is required in addition to your identity photos mentioned above. This can be a photocopy of a passport, driving license, or military ID.
  • Birth certificate – all applicants are required to provide a birth certificate with the exception of refugees and asylum seekers (unless they have this available). The birth certificate you provide must be the long-form version showing at least one parent.
  • Evidence of immigration inspection and admission or inspection and parole on arrival in the US – in most cases, you will be expected to provide copies of documents proving you were inspected by an immigration officer and admitted or paroled into the country. This may include any of the following:
    • Passport page with admission or parole stamp (issued by a US immigration officer)
    • Passport page with a nonimmigrant visa
    • Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record
  • Documentation for your specific immigrant category – this will depend on which category you are applying under. For example, if applying for permanent residence as a beneficiary, you may need to provide a copy of your Form I-797 Approval Notice for your petition (or the principal applicant’s petition).
  • Marriage Certificate and Other Proof of Relationship – this is required for those applying as a spouse of the main applicant, however, refugee derivative applicants do not need to supply this.
  • Evidence of Continuously Maintaining a Lawful Status Since Arrival in the United States – this may include (but is not limited to) copies of one of the following:
    • Form I-797 approval notices for all extensions and changes of nonimmigrant status;
    • Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record, including printouts of paperless I-94 admissions;
    • Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - For Academic and Language Students, or Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status - For Vocational Students, including all pages containing notations by authorised school officials;
    • Form DS-2019 (formerly IAP 66), Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status, including all pages containing notations by authorised exchange visitor program officials; or
    • A passport page with an admission or parole stamp (issued by a US immigration officer).
  • Declaration of Self-Sufficiency (Form I-944) and Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA (Form I-864)

What If I Do Not Have The Necessary Documents To Register For Lawful Permanent Resident Status?

In some cases, it simply will not be possible to provide an item of primary evidence such as a birth certificate, however, you will still need to provide secondary evidence in lieu of this. Where it is not possible to provide primary or secondary documentation, you will need to explain in detail as part of your application why. You will then need to provide two or more sworn affidavits. The guidance clarifies that these sworn affidavits must be from “individuals who are not parties to the immigration benefit sought and who have direct personal knowledge of the event and circumstances”.

Final Words

The stakes are high when applying for a green card in the United States, after all, this is your route to permanent residence. For this reason, it is always advisable to take your time and ensure that your I-485 is carefully completed and that all of the documentation/evidence is supplied. If you require any help with your application, do consider engaging an immigration lawyer who can ensure the information you are providing will satisfy the officer at USCIS who will assess your case. Doing so will give you the peace of mind that your application is as complete as possible, and you have the very best chance of securing a positive decision.

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