If you’re like many people who want to apply for a green card through marriage, you know that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will require you to provide a lot of documentation to back up your application. Though the information the U.S. government needs is pretty standard, USCIS may ask you for additional documentation, as well. This guide explains the 11 essential documents needed to apply for a green card through marriage, as well as some of the other types of proof you may need to provide USCIS.
11 Essential Documents Needed to Apply for a Green Card Through Marriage
Though every case is different (and your New York immigration attorney will give you case-specific guidance for your own petition), you typically need the following documents to apply for a green card through marriage:
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificate
- Proof of termination of prior marriages
- Financial documents
- Proof of sponsor’s citizenship or LPR status
- Proof of lawful entry to the U.S.
- Police clearance certificate
- U.S. law enforcement and court records
- Military records
- Current or expired U.S. visas
- Medical examination document
Here’s a closer look at each. You can also refer to the table in the later section, “A Quick Look at Document Types,” to cross-reference the documentation you need to sponsor your spouse for a green card.
#1. Birth Certificates
If you’re applying for a green card for your spouse because you’re a U.S. citizen, you need a copy of your own birth certificate. USCIS needs this to prove that you’re a citizen. If you don’t have a coy of your birth certificate, either because it’s unavailable and you can’t access it, other types of documents will suffice, such as a valid U.S. passport. As a naturalized citizen, your passport – or your naturalization certificate or certificate of citizenship – are also acceptable documents to prove that you’re eligible to sponsor your spouse for a green card.
If you’re a lawful permanent resident of the United States, you need a copy of your green card or a passport issued in another country (as long as it has a stamp of temporary permanent residence in the United States). You can provide either of these documents to show USCIS your status and that you’re eligible to sponsor your spouse.
Related: How to get your mom or dad a green card
#2. Your Marriage Certificate
USCIS needs to see a copy of the official document that proves you’re married. That’s your marriage certificate. If you were married in the United States, the document is from the state in which you got married. If you were married abroad, supply USCIS with an official copy of the foreign marriage certificate that’s been translated into English.
If your marriage certificate is in a language other than English, you must include a full English translation along with the original document. The translator must certify that the translation is complete and accurate, as well as include their full name, address, and telephone number. They should also provide you with a statement that says they translated the document and know it to be an accurate translation of the original.
#3. Proof of Termination of Prior Marriages
If either of you were married before, you must submit evidence that those prior marriages have ended, whether through divorce, annulment, or death. That’s true for both spouses.
Related: Bringing a foreign fiancé to the U.S.
#4. Financial Documents
You need to show USCIS that you (the sponsoring spouse) have enough income or assets to support your spouse once they become a permanent resident. To do this, submit either your most recent federal tax return or evidence of other sources of financial support, like earnings statements or asset documents. If someone else is going to help support your spouse financially (a joint sponsor), they need to provide similar financial documents.
Joint sponsors can be friends or family members. Your attorney will give you more guidance on joint sponsorship if it’s necessary in your case.
#5. Proof of Sponsor’s Citizenship or LPR Status
The U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse must provide USCIS with evidence of their status, using one of the following documents:
- A valid U.S. passport
- A birth certificate (if born in the United States)
- A naturalization certificate or certificate of citizenship
- A permanent resident card (also known as a “green card”)
If you’re a U.S. citizen, you need to show USCIS your birth certificate or passport. If you’re a lawful permanent resident, provide your green card. If you recently became a naturalized citizen or permanent resident, supply the relevant certificate instead.
#6. Proof of Lawful Entry to the U.S.
If your spouse is in the U.S. at the time you apply, you must show USCIS that they entered the United States legally, with a valid visa (if required) or other travel document. The easiest way to do this is to include a copy of the appropriate page from their passport, which shows the date and port of entry into the United States, as well as their visa classification. Other acceptable documents include:
- A transportation letter
- Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record
- A reentry permit
- An advance parole document
If your spouse entered the U.S. without a visa (for example, on a visa waiver program), you must show USCIS other documentation, like a passport stamped with the date and place of entry into the United States.
Related: What it means to sponsor an immigrant
#7. Police Clearance Certificate
Your spouse must provide USCIS with a police clearance certificate from every country they lived in for more than six months since turning 16 years old, even if it was just one day over six months. The police clearance certificate is sometimes called a good conduct or moral character report. It’s basically a document that says your spouse doesn’t have any criminal convictions in the country where they got the certificate.
Note: If your spouse has ever been arrested, even if they weren’t convicted of anything, they should still include a police clearance certificate from that country in their application packet.
#8. U.S. Law Enforcement and Court Records
If your spouse has ever been arrested by any U.S. law enforcement agency, they need to include a certified copy of the arrest record in their application packet, as well as any available court records. This is true even if the charges were later dropped or they were found not guilty. The court records should include the final disposition of the case.
#9. Military Records
If the sponsor or the spouse has ever served in any military force (including the Coast Guard, National Guard or a reserve component), USCIS needs copies of their military service records. That’s true whether the military force was in the United States or in another country. Acceptable documents include discharge documents and other service records; just keep in mind that if the records are in a language other than English, you must have them translated and certified.
#10. Current or Expired U.S. Visas
If your spouse has ever been to the United States on a nonimmigrant visa, they need to include a copy of that visa in their application packet, even if it’s expired. The same is true for any other U.S. visas they may have had, like a student visa or work visa.
Related: How to remove conditions from your green card
#11. Medical Examination Document
The foreign spouse typically needs a medical examination as part of the green card application process. You can bring Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, to a physician who’s authorized to perform these exams. (Check out USCIS’s list of authorized doctors here.)
Other Documents You May Need to Prove a Bona Fide Marriage
In addition to the documents listed above, your attorney may advise you to provide USCIS with additional evidence that your marriage is bona fide. This could include things like:
- Evidence of joint ownership of property
- Birth certificates of children born to you and your spouse
- Lease or mortgage agreements in both of your names
- Financial records showing joint ownership of bank accounts, credit cards, etc.
- Insurance policies naming your spouse as a beneficiary
Remember, USCIS may ask for additional evidence at any time during the application process. If you’re ever unsure about what to include in your application packet, it’s always best to discuss your situation with your immigration attorney. She’ll give you the guidance you need to file your petition and get the best possible outcome.
Related: Is it possible for undocumented immigrants to get legal status in the U.S.?
A Quick Look at Document Types
|Document Type||When it’s Required||Examples|
|Proof of U.S. citizenship||When the sponsoring spouse is a U.S. citizen||U.S. birth certificate Naturalization certificate Certificate of citizenship Valid U.S. passport Report of birth abroad|
|Proof of lawful permanent resident (LPR) status||When the sponsoring spouse is a permanent resident with a green card||Green card Passport issued in another country, if it has a stamp denoting temporary permanent residence in the United States|
|Proof of marriage||When you submit any application for a green card through marriage||Marriage certificate Joint financial documents|
|Proof of change in prior marital status||When either party was previously divorced or had a marriage annulled, or when a former spouse died||Divorce papers Death certificate of former spouse Certificate of annulment The equivalent of any of these documents from the party’s home country|
|Proof of the foreign spouse’s nationality||When you submit any application for a green card through marriage||Birth certificate Passport|
|Proof of lawful entry to the U.S.||When the foreign spouse is located in the United States at the time of application||U.S. visa I094 travel record|
|Law enforcement and judicial records||When the foreign spouse or sponsoring spouse has had interactions with the legal system or U.S. immigration in the past; note that you always need a police clearance certificate or equivalent document for the foreign spouse||Court records Police records Prison records Deportation documents A police clearance certificate|
|Proof of military service||When one spouse served in the military, regardless of country||DD-214 or equivalent discharge document, such as NGB-22 (if the servicemember has been discharged from the U.S. military) Current military service records from the servicemember’s Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) if the servicemember is still serving in the U.S. military Other military service records that establish service Military service records from a country other than the U.S.|
|Proof of financial ability to support a spouse||When you apply for a green card through marriage||The U.S. citizen’s or lawful permanent resident’s most recent federal income tax return; you may wish to supply the past three years’ tax returns, pay stubs from the past six months, and a letter from your employer verifying your employment Ownership documents for stocks, bonds or other investments Bank statements The title to your home Documents that prove you have other assets|
Do You Need to Talk to an Immigration Attorney About Applying for a Green Card Through Marriage?
If you need to talk to an immigration attorney, we may be able to help you. Call our office at 914-481-8822 to schedule a consultation with an experienced, knowledgeable immigration attorney who can answer your questions and give you the legal advice you need.