Most people find the process of preparing their immigration law case to be very difficult and at best nerve-racking. To help make the situation a little less stressful, I have created a basic checklist of immigration related documents that any experienced immigration law attorney will ask you for when starting your immigration case. This checklist of basic documents should also be used by individuals who are filing their own immigration case.
For Immigrants or those hoping to Immigrate to the US:
1. Your passport including current non-expired passport and any old passports, if possible keep the old passport when renewing it. If you must provide your old passport to get a newly issued one, then make a copy of the expired passport including the biographic page and any stamped pages confirming your travel, to keep with you in case you need it later on.
2. Your I-94 card or I-94W card. The I-94 card is on a white card that must be completed by you before entry into the US. The I-94W (also called visa waiver) is a card that looks like the I-94 card but it is green in color. Each family member should have their own card.
*It is important to note that under US immigration law, the expiration date on the I-94 or I-94W card is what controls how long you can stay in the US without requiring an extension or violating your visa stay in the US. Some immigrants think that because they have a visa page in their passport that states that they have a 5 year or 10 year visa, that they can remain in the US during that entire time without departing or requiring visa extensions or change of status. This is incorrect and will cause you to fall out of status.
*Also, please note that the I-94 or I-94W card is EXTREMELY important. You should 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, fiancee visa, work visa, or any other visa in the US without proof of legal entry, which comes in the form of the I-94 or I-94W card.
3. Birth Certificate in the original native language and attach a proper translation with correct translator’s certificate, signature, etc. You should bring your Original birth certificate with you. You should NOT file the original with immigration, as only a copy is needed, but keep the original birth certificate in a safe place in case immigration wants to see the original.
4. If married, then a marriage certificate with translation. Again, you should bring your original marriage certificate with you. File only a copy with 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 the marriage license, you can obtain a certified copy at www.USA.gov. The exact link is http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Family_Issues/Vital_Docs.shtml.
5. If your country issues these, a family certificate that lists you, your spouse and all 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 file only a copy with USCIS.
7. Birth certificates and passports for each child and spouse. Birth certificates must all be translated as explained above in item #3. These are needed to confirm exact identity of each person, their exact name spelling, etc. Because USCIS will rely on the spelling on the Birth Certificate instead of the person’s passport, you want to be sure that the translation is correct as to the exact spelling of each person’s name.
8. If coming in on a B-1 business visitor visa, then bring with you your personal or company bank account from your native country, any proof of ownership of a business in your native country (if applicable), any professional organizations you belong to, and a CV (i.e. resume). This information will be useful if you plan on filing an investor visa here in the US or other type of work visa, such as opening a business in the US similar to the one overseas.
9. If you hold a bachelor’s degree from your foreign country, bring the actual college degree (copy is OK) and transcripts of classes completed from your school. This information will be needed if you decide to apply for an H-1B visa or other type of work visa.
10. If you are already residing in the US and you file US income taxes, keep copies of every year that you file taxes. A copy can be obtained from IRS directly in case you did not already keep copies.
I hope that the above basic checklist will help you in gathering your basic documents needed to file any US immigration law case. Please note that for specific case types, such as fiancee visas, work visas, marriage green card cases, etc., additional documents will be needed. A link has been provided below where you can find more information on a specific case type.