Checklist of essential immigration documents to have on hand

Checklist of essential immigration documents to have on hand

Checklist of essential immigration documents to have on hand

Most people find the process of preparing their immigration case to be very difficult and at best nerve-wracking. To make the situation a little less stressful, I’ve created a basic checklist of immigration-related documents that any experienced immigration attorney will ask of you when starting your immigration case. This checklist of essential documents should also be used by individuals filing their own immigration case.

For immigrants or those hoping to immigrate to the US:

1. Your passport, including the current unexpired passport and any old passports, if possible, keep the old passport when renewing it. If you need to surrender your old passport to get a new one, then make a copy of the expired passport, including the bio page and any stamped pages confirming your travel, to keep with you in case you need them later.

2. Your I-94 card or I-94W card. The I-94 card is a white card that must be completed by you before entering the United States. The I-94W (also called Visa Waiver) is a card that looks like the I-94 card, but is green in color. Each family member must have their own card.

*It is important to note that under US immigration law, the expiration date of the I-94 or I-94W card is what controls how long you can stay in the US without requiring an extension or interruption of your US visa stay . Some immigrants believe that because they have a visa page in their passport that says they have a 5-year or 10-year visa, that they can stay in the US that entire time without leaving or requiring a visa extension or change of the statute. This is incorrect and will result in disqualification.

*Also note that the I-94 or I-94W card is EXTREMELY important. You must make copies of the card (front and back) and keep the original in a safe place. You will not be able to get a green card, fiance visa, work visa, or other visa to the US without proof of legal entry, which is in the form of an I-94 or I-94W card.

3. Birth certificate in original native language and attach proper translation with proper certificate from translator, signature etc. You must bring your original birth certificate with you. You should NOT submit the original to immigration as only a copy is required, but keep the original birth certificate in a safe place in case immigration wants to see the original.

4. If married, then marriage certificate with translation. Again, you must bring your original marriage certificate with you. Submit only a copy to USCIS and bring the original to the interview with you. If you get married in the US and do not have a copy or certified copy of your marriage license, you can obtain a certified copy of www.USA.gov. The exact link is http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Family_Issues/Vital_Docs.shtml.

5. If your country issues them, a family certificate that lists you, your spouse and any children (if applicable to you).

6. Divorce certificate(s), if applicable, with translation or death certificate and English translation if spouse is deceased. Again, bring the original with you, but only submit a copy to USCIS.

7. Birth certificates and passports for each child and spouse. All birth certificates must be translated as explained above in point #3. These are necessary to confirm each person’s correct identity, correct spelling of their name, etc. Since USCIS will rely on the spelling on the birth certificate instead of the person’s passport, you want to make sure that the translation is correct in terms of the correct spelling of each person’s name.

8. If you are coming on a B-1 Business Visitor visa, then bring your personal or company bank account from your home country, any proof of business ownership in your home country (if applicable), any professional organizations, to that you belong to, and CV (i.e. curriculum vitae). This information will be helpful if you plan to apply for an investor visa here in the US or another type of work visa, such as opening a business in the US similar to the one abroad.

9. If you hold a bachelor’s degree from your foreign country, bring the actual college diploma (a copy is OK) and transcripts of completed classes from your school. You will need this information if you decide to apply for an H-1B visa or another type of work visa.

10. If you already live in the US and file US income taxes, keep copies of each year you file taxes. A copy can be obtained directly from the IRS in case you have not already kept copies.

I hope the above basic checklist will help you in gathering your essential documents needed to file a case under US immigration law. Please note that for specific types of cases, such as fiance visas, work visas, marriage green card cases, etc., additional documents will be required. A link is provided below where you can find more information about a specific type of case.

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