If you are married to a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident, you can apply for a green card.
A green card application requires many documents—documents about your life that you must locate and present to the government, and documents the government provides for you to fill out.
The United States government wants an in-depth illustration of who you are personally and professionally before it grants a green card.
This article can give you an idea of what the government expects from you and how to prepare for your green card application.
What Documents Should I Have Before I Apply for a Green Card?
The green card application process can be lengthy and involves many steps. To keep yourself from getting overwhelmed, you should gather as many necessary documents as possible before you start filing forms.
What Your Spouse Must Provide
Generally, your official green card application process begins with your spouse’s Form I-130 petition to the government. This petition establishes your marriage relationship with your spouse and lets the United States government know you are eligible for legal permanent resident status.
Your spouse must prove their legal permanent resident or citizen status
In their petition, your spouse must prove that they are a United States citizen or a lawful permanent resident with the following documents:
- A copy of their birth certificate from a civil authority;
- A copy of their naturalization certificate from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS);
- A copy of form FS-240, Consular Report of Birth Abroad from a U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate;
- A copy of their unexpired U.S. passport;
- An original U.S. consular officer statement that verifies your spouse is a U.S. citizen with a valid passport;
- A front and back copy of their Permanent Resident Card;
- Copies of their passport biographic page that shows admission as a lawful permanent resident; or
- Other documents issued by USCIS or INS that prove permanent resident status.
If your spouse is a U.S. citizen who cannot locate their official citizenship documents, USCIS offers alternatives for proving their status.
Your spouse must prove they legally married you
Your spouse’s petition must include proof of your legal marriage. Proof of your legal marriage to your spouse includes:
- A copy of your marriage certificate;
- Copies of the legal terminations of any prior marriages for you and your spouse (if applicable);
- Two identical passport-style photos in color of you and your spouse (separately);
- Any documents that show joint property ownership;
- Lease documents showing you and your spouse live at the same residence;
- Documents evidencing joint financial resources;
- Birth certificates for any children you had together;
- Affidavits from others who can affirm the validity of your marriage; and
- Any other documents that prove you have an ongoing marital union.
The USCIS has many specific rules regarding your passport-style photos, so you and your spouse should read the Form I-130 instructions carefully before submitting documents.
The list of documents to prove your legal marital status is long. The marriage certificate, proof of legal terminations of prior marriages (if any), and passport photos are required for every spouse petition, but the USCIS encourages you to include one or more of the other documents listed above to prove you have a bona fide marriage. The United States government is very wary of potential marriage fraud for immigration status, so the more documents you have to prove the validity of your marriage, the better.
Your spouse must prove that your travel in and out the United States has been legal
Your spouse’s petition must include your I-94 documentation. Your I-94 is a document from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol that proves your lawful admissions into the U.S. after trips abroad. You can get copies of your I-94 travel history from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol website.
What You Must Provide
The Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status is your main green card application. With your application, you must submit many documents including:
- A copy of your birth certificate;
- A copy of your government-issued ID with a photograph;
- Inspection and admission or inspection and parole documentation;
- Documentation of your immigrant category, including Form I-797 to prove receipt of your spouse’s Form I-130;
- Certified police and court records regarding all your criminal charges, arrests, or convictions (regardless of the final disposition);
- Proof that you have continuously maintained lawful status since you arrived in the U.S.; and
- Proof your spouse has continuously maintained lawful status since they arrived in the U.S.
If you were previously deported or deemed inadmissible for entry, you will likely have to file additional forms with your application. There are also certain immigration statuses that require additional forms. You should check the list of initial evidence needed for green card applications to determine what additional forms you need (if any). An experienced immigration attorney can determine what you need to complete your green card application and reduce complications in your application process.
What Applications Do I Need to File to Receive a Green Card?
In your list of documents for a green card through marriage are many petitions and applications. Generally, the applications and petitions you or your spouse need to file include:
- Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative (filled out and submitted by your citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse);
- Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (submitted by you);
- Form I-797 to prove receipt of your spouse’s petition;
- Form DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application (for applicants outside of the U.S.);
- Form DS-261 Online Choice of Address and Agent (for applicants outside of the U.S.);
- Form I-693 Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record;
- Form I-508 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (if applicable); and
- Form I-212 Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal (if applicable).
A Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record is for public health reasons and must be completed and sealed by a USCIS-approved doctor after they examine you. You should have your examination as close in time as possible to filing your green card application, so your results remain valid during processing and adjudication. You may also need to file an affidavit of support to prove you have financial support and are not likely to need public assistance in the U.S.
Contact an Attorney
While this list of documents for a green card through marriage is a helpful guide to prepare you, it is not exhaustive. The unique characteristics of your immigration case may require additional documentation and applications. You should consult with an experienced immigration attorney as soon as possible to ensure you have everything you need.
Vantage Group Legal is a unique legal service that provides you with highly venerated and experienced attorneys who can help you through the immigration process. Our network attorneys have the highest degree of intelligence, integrity, and energy to address your needs. We also address your needs swiftly. You and your spouse have each other, but you also have us to give you the professional advice you need. Contact us online or call us at 773-938-4747 for a free consultation.