Tips for Documents to Prepare in Anticipation of Priority Date Becoming Current31 May 2021
It can take years for a foreign national to be granted status as a lawful permanent resident (i.e., “green card” holder) through one of the employment-based categories. This is especially true for applicants born in one of the heavily oversubscribed countries, notably India and China. So, as one’s priority date draws closer to becoming current, the last thing that person wants is further delays caused by lack of documents necessary to file the application to adjust status (form I-485).
Original Birth Certificate for Adjustment of Status
To file for adjustment of status, submission of birth documentation is required. This birth documentation usually takes the form of an official birth certificate that, ideally, was issued shortly after the applicant was born. However, if an individual does not have a birth certificate, alternate documentation will be necessary. Similarly, if the person has a birth certificate, but it does not meet certain requirements, such as not containing the complete biographical information, or not having been registered within one year of the birth, additional evidence of one’s birth likely will be needed.
Alternate Birth Documentation Vary by Country
If the applicant does not have an original birth certificate that meets the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) criteria, alternate documentation should be obtained to satisfy the birth certificate requirement. It should be noted that the specific documents available may depend based on one’s country of birth. A country-by-country list of accepted civil documents is available on each respective country’s reciprocity page on the U.S. Department of State’s website.
If the no original birth certificate can be obtained, some countries, including India, typically allow the individual to apply for a certificate of nonavailability from the local authorities with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of birth.
Whether the person has no birth certificate or a birth certificate that does not meet USCIS requirements, the alternate evidence of birth recommended typically includes two birth affidavits as well as secondary birth evidence to satisfy the requirement for birth documentation. Birth affidavits may be provided by anybody who witnessed or had knowledge of the birth and was over 10 years old at the time of birth. Secondary birth evidence is required to be provided as well and includes but is not limited to the following: school leaving certificates, ration cards, church / baptismal records, hospital records and medical records. All documents must be translated into English, if not originally in English.
Marriage Documentation for Adjustment of Status
If the I-485 applicant is married, marriage documentation is also required. This usually takes the form of a marriage certificate. However, if an individual does not have a marriage certificate or if the marriage certificate does not include all the information required by the USCIS (e.g., full name of bride and groom, date of marriage) additional evidence of the valid marriage must be provided. As with the birth documents, each country’s reciprocity page details the specific marriage documents required based on the country where the marriage took place.
Marriage Certificate may be Obtained Well After Wedding Date
If the applicant does not have a proper, qualifying marriage certificate, the individual should submit two marriage affidavits as supplemental documentation. A marriage affidavit can be signed by any individual who was present at the marriage ceremony and was at least 10 years old at the time of marriage. In addition, in many countries, it is possible to obtain a valid marriage certificate long after the marriage took place. All documents must be translated into English, if not originally in English.
Additional Areas to Review Prior to Priority Date Becoming Current
Any past criminal violation must be disclosed on the I-485 application. It may be necessary to include an addendum to the I-485 at the time of filing to explain why the criminal matter does not make the individual ineligible for a green card. Preparing this addendum in advance of the priority date becoming current can help avoid delays. Further, the individual may need to obtain court records to submit with the I-485 application. Needless to say, any criminal matters should be discussed with the applicant’s immigration attorney well in advance of filing.
It can take time to gather certain documents, such as court records or official government documents. Documents, such as affidavits, do not expire. So, it makes sense to obtain certain records in advance, especially if one’s priority date is expected to become current in the near future.
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