Documents Needed for Permanent Residence

What documents do I need to immigrate?

The specific documentation required to immigrate to the U.S. will vary depending upon the case type. However, all case types will require the following documents: Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate (if applicable), Passport and if formerly married, proof of termination of all prior marriages.

If I have been arrested in the past, what documents will be needed?

It is important that you consult with an attorney. Even if an arrest did not result in a conviction, it still may have possible immigration consequences. The same applies to prior convictions which were later expunged or removed from your record by the court due to passage of time, etc. In order for an attorney to fully assess what impact such an event will have on your ability to immigrate to the U.S., you will need to secure original or court certified documents which indicate the charges filed, the sentence imposed and the final disposition of the case. These documents will also need to be provided as part of your application for permanent residency.

What if I do not have a required document?

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Department of State (DOS) have official reference materials which indicate what documents (e.g., Birth and Marriage Records) are available in each country and how those documents may be obtained. If these reference materials reflect that a specific document exists, then the document must be provided at the time the case is filed. You can find more information regarding what documents are available at the Department of States Visa Reciprocity and Country Documents Finder website.

What if I request a specific document and the relevant government authority/agency informs me that the document or record does not exist?

In the event you seek to secure a document from your home country and the relevant government authority confirms that the record sought does not exist, it is important that an official letter from that government agency be obtained which confirms the nonexistence of the requested document (e.g., non-availability certificate). The confirmation from that government authority/agency that a specific document does not exist may then be used in combination with secondary evidence to support the event at issue (e.g., birth). The most common forms of secondary evidence are school records, church and/or hospital records or affidavits from family or friends who can attest to the required elements of the event.

If I want to use an affidavit, what is the format and what information must it contain?

An affidavit is a sworn statement before an official, usually a notary, in which the person states certain facts to be true. The following is general guidance on the topic:

  1. The affiant must have personal knowledge of the events at issue, meaning that he/she must have been present at the event.
  2. The affiant must identify himself/herself and recite how he/she knows the facts to be true. For example: “I am [Name], the aunt of [John Smith]. I was present at his birth and can state the following: He was born in (location) on (date) and his parents are (names).
  3. The affidavit can be handwritten or formally prepared, but must be made under oath and witnessed by an official (typically a notary).
  4. In the event the document is written in a foreign language, an English translation is required.
Can you provide guidance on the format/requirements for English translations?

Using a professional translation service in the U.S. or in your home country is fine. It is also permissible for friends to provide the English translation. The main focus is that the person providing the translation must be competent to do so and translate the document accurately. In the event a professional translation service is not utilized, the individual translating the document will need to provide a Certificate of Translation. The following language should suffice for the Certificate of Translation: “I, [name of translator] hereby certify I am fluent in the English and [foreign] languages and that the attached document is an accurate translation to the best of my ability of the attached document, [name of document], issued by [name of authority]”. The translator must also provide his/her full legal name, address, and signature.

Do I need original documents?

Yes. Depending upon the case type, an original or certified original copy of the document may be required at the time of filing. Legal counsel must advise on this aspect. If you are filing an Adjustment of Status application with the USCIS, copies will suffice at the time of filing. However, at an interview with USCIS you must have your original documents so that the interviewing officer may verify that the copies submitted are accurate. If you are pursuing your immigrant visa through a U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate abroad, the DOS will require original documents at the time of filing which will be returned to you at the conclusion of the process.

What about medical examinations?

All individuals seeking to immigrate to the U.S. must complete a medical examination. The medical examination is utilized by the relevant U.S. government agency to confirm that an applicant is not inadmissible to the U.S. pursuant to public health grounds.

If you are filing an Adjustment of Status application with the USCIS, the medical examination must be completed by a designated Civil Surgeon.

If you are pursuing your immigrant visa through a U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate abroad, the medical examination must be completed by a Panel Physician. The following websites provide further information on this topic:  https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/immigrate/immigrant-process/interview/prepare/medical-exam-faqs.html

It is strongly recommended that an applicant bring proof of their vaccination history to their medical examination appointment. Otherwise, the physician may need to administer any vaccinations that cannot be verified. If a vaccine is not age appropriate or an applicant has a medical condition that prevents administering a vaccine, as medically appropriate the Civil Surgeon or Panel Physician may waive such vaccines.

As processing times are constantly fluctuating and medical examinations are deemed valid for only 2 years, we advise against submitting the medical examination results as part of the initial AOS filing and instead recommend waiting to have the examination performed after the AOS interview has been scheduled (or in response to a Request for Evidence should USCIS issue one requesting the medical results).  

You and each of your family members immigrating with you (spouse and dependent children under the age of 21, not U.S. citizen children) will need to complete a medical examination for your AOS application(s).  Note however that medical examination results must be submitted to USCIS within 60 days of the date they are signed by the USCIS-approved physician and once submitted they will be valid for 2 years.

Please also note that physicians set their own fees, so when the time comes to proceed with the medical exams we recommend calling different physicians to compare fees before scheduling an appointment. You can download the Medical Examination Form (Form I-693) and find instructions for the Medical Examination here: http://www.uscis.gov/i-693.  Please download ALL pages of the form for each applicant.

What about fingerprints and photographs?

At the time of filing a case, it is likely that passport-type photographs will be required. The specific number of photographs is case specific.  Please click here for photo specifications information.

After the filing of an Adjustment of Status application with the USCIS, the USCIS will issue an appointment notice for an applicant to appear at a local Application Support Center (ASC) to have his/her photograph and fingerprints taken (biometrics). In the event an applicant is not able to attend the scheduled appointment, the applicant must timely reschedule or the case may be denied.

What about the Affidavit of Support?

The Affidavit of Support is utilized by the U.S. to ensure that new immigrants will not need to rely on public benefits to support their presence in the U.S. If you are pursuing U.S. permanent residency based on your relationship to a family member in the U.S., an Affidavit of Support will be required as you must have a financial sponsor. For those immigrating to the U.S. through employment, an Affidavit of Support is not generally required. As this is a complex topic, seeking guidance from legal counsel is advised. For further information on this topic, please click here.