What Documentation Do You Need Before You Apply for a Green Card?

Immigration Practice Areas > Green Cards > What Documentation Do You Need Before You Apply for a Green Card?

If you are applying for a green card, you'll need several types of documents to prove your case to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS. This guide explains them all.

Documents You Need Before You Apply for a Green Card

You may not need all of these documents (for example, you won’t need a marriage certificate if you’re applying as an immigrant investor, and you won’t need proof of an employment offer if you’re applying for a marriage-based green card).

However, this list will get you started in collecting the right documentation for your USCIS green card application:

  • Documents You Need Before You Apply for a Green CardBirth certificate
  • Court records
  • Current or expired U.S. visas
  • Death certificate of former spouse
  • Divorce decree
  • Financial documents
  • Immigration violation records
  • Marriage certificate
  • Medical examination documents
  • Military records
  • Police clearance certificate
  • Police records
  • Prison records
  • Proof of a bona fide marriage
  • Proof of funds for an investment
  • Proof of lawful entry into the United States
  • Proof of your current immigration status
  • Proof of your sponsor’s U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent resident status
  • Valid passport

Related: What happens at a green card interview?

Documents You Need Before You Apply for a Green CardA Word on Translating Documents

If you have foreign language documents, it is your responsibility to have them translated into English before submitting them to USCIS. For example, a foreign birth certificate must be translated into English before USCIS will consider it a valid part of your petition. Further, any translations you submit must also be accompanied by a certification letter. You, a friend or family member, or a professional translation service can translate all the documents you submit to USCIS. However, anyone who translates for you (or you, if you do it yourself) must be fluent in both English and the language the document is written in, and the certification letter must say so.

Types of Proof for Various Situations

In some cases, you need multiple different types of documents to provide sufficient proof to USCIS. The following sections explain what constitutes as proof for a bona fide marriage, funds for an investment, lawful entry in the United States, your current immigration status, and your sponsor’s citizenship or lawful permanent resident status.

Proof of a Bona Fide Marriage

There are several documents that can help you prove to USCIS that you are engaged in a genuine marriage. That means showing the government that you didn't simply marry for an immigration benefit. The USCIS official in charge of your case will look at your documentation very carefully to determine whether your marriage is genuine, and they'll look at your application to double-check your answers during the interview. If the USCIS official suspects that you are not being honest about the validity of your marriage, your petition could be denied.

Here's a list of some of the documents and items you can use to prove the validity of your marriage:

  • Deed to property that shows both of your and your spouse’s name
  • Mortgage documents that have both your names
  • Lease agreements or rental contracts with both parties’ names listed
  • Driver’s licenses or ID cards that show you share an address
  • Bank statements for joint accounts
  • Voided or cancelled checks that show the same address
  • Shared utility bills
  • Property insurance statements or agreements with both names at the same address
  • Health insurance statements
  • Life insurance statements
  • Life insurance policy documents listing each other as beneficiaries
  • Affidavits from friends and others who know you and can attest that you live together
  • Correspondence from friends and family that show you live at the same address
  • Birth certificates that have both your names on them
  • Adoption certificates that have both your names on them
  • Evidence of relationships with stepchildren, such as school records, photos and vacation itineraries
  • Medical records that evidence an ongoing pregnancy
  • Evidence that shows a non-related parent (you or your spouse) as an emergency contact at children’s schools or doctor’s offices

Related: The ultimate green card marriage guide

Proof of Funds for an Investment

Generally, you'll need to provide proof of funds for an investment in a U.S. company if you are attempting to obtain a green card on the basis of entrepreneurship. You can do this by submitting bank statements, tax documents and other financial information. Your attorney can let you know exactly what the United States government needs from you in order to process your application.

Related: Investor green cards: The definitive guide to EB5

Proof of Lawful Entry Into the United States

You can prove lawful entry into the United States by showing a copy of your I-94 travel record. The I-94 is a document that you receive from a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer upon inspection when you enter the United States through a lawful port of entry. You can also show your passport page with your admission or parole stamp, a passport page that shows your nonimmigrant visa, or if you're from Mexico, your border crossing card. You may need to accompany these documents with the declaration stating the date that you entered the United States, where you entered, and the circumstances surrounding your entry. Your attorney can give you more specific items if you don't have proof of lawful entry into the United States.

Proof of Your Current Immigration Status

You can verify your current immigration status with a number of documents, including a re-entry permit, a refugee travel document, an employment authorization document or an alien registration number. Your attorney can advise you of the appropriate documentation to prove your current immigration status in the United States.

Proof of Your Sponsor’s Citizenship or Lawful Permanent Resident Status

You can prove your sponsor citizenship with a birth certificate or passport or prove lawful permanent resident status with a copy of your sponsor's green card. Your attorney can help give you guidance on the appropriate documentation for this requirement.

What if Your Spouse is Deceased or You’re Divorced, but You’re Applying for a Marriage-Based Green Card?

If your spouse is deceased but you're applying for a marriage-based green card, you'll still need to prove that you were married and that your spouse was a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. That may include your marriage certificate and a death certificate.

Likewise, in limited circumstances, people who are divorced from their spouses may still apply for marriage based green cards; if that’s your situation, you'll need to provide all the documentation necessary to prove that you were engaged in a bona fide marriage and that you are currently divorced. These are both rare situations, so if either one applies to you, you should speak to an immigration attorney.

Related: Frequently asked U.S. immigration questions

Types of Green Cards That Require Different Documentation

The following are the various types of green card petitions that may require different documentation. If you’re not sure which documents you’ll need to support your petition, you should speak to your immigration attorney – your lawyer can give you the guidance you need.

  • Petition for Alien Relative. This is the most common type of green card petition.
  • Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker
  • Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition
  • Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal
  • Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er) or Special Immigrant
  • Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur
  • Petition of U Nonimmigrant Status
  • Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant

How Do You Know Which Documents to Submit?

Your attorney can tell you which documents you need to submit based on the type of petition you're filing. For example, if you are looking for a marriage based green card, you'll need a specific set of documents and proof to show USCIS that you are engaged in a bona fide (genuine) marriage. Likewise, if you're an investor, you'll need specific financial documents to show USCIS how you qualify to make an investment.

Related: Guide to adjustment of status in the U.S.

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Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Documentation for a Green Card?

If you are not sure what documents you need to provide, or which documents will satisfy USCIS requirements, we're here to help. Call our office or contact us online now to schedule your free consultation with an experienced, caring and committed immigration attorney who can put you on the right path.