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Immigration Forms: An Overview

To legally travel and stay in the United States, foreign nationals must go through a complex application or petition process that involves a lot of paperwork, including several forms. Most of these forms are available for free by downloading them from either the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or the US Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs. If the form begins with an “I,” “G” or “N,” they can be found at the USCIS website. If the form begins with a “DS” it can be found at the US Department of State’s website.

While easy to obtain, these forms are far from easy to complete and usually require additional documents and a fee to accompany the form’s submission. In many instances, the help of an immigration attorney, such as one from Saland Law, can make completing these forms much easier, make it less likely it will be rejected and most importantly, improve your chances of obtaining the immigration benefits you seek whether that is a Green Card, visa or citizenship. Simply,

What Are Some Common Forms and What Are They Used For?

There are dozens of forms that exist for obtaining immigration benefits. However, some of the more common ones are listed below.

  • I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card – Needed to renew or replace a Green Card.

  • I-130, Petition for Alien Relative – Establishes the relationship of a US citizen or permanent resident to a foreign national immigrating to the United States.

  • I-131, Application for Travel Document – Needed to apply for a reentry permit or Advance Parole travel document.

  • I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence of Adjust Status – Needed to apply for a Green Card.

  • I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility – Used to obtain a waiver of an individual’s inadmissible immigration status, often caused by criminal history, health issues or prior immigration violations.

  • I-690, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility – Used to obtain a waiver of an individual’s inadmissibility pursuant to Sections 210 and 245A of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

  • I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record – Used to show that an applicant for a Green Card is not inadmissible based on health issues.

  • I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence – Needed to remove the conditional status given to Green Cards obtained within two years of marriage.

  • I-765, Application for Employment Authorization – Needed by foreign nationals to obtain work authorization status in the United States.

  • I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA – Needed to prove that certain applicants, once admitted to the United States, will not depend on federal government financial support.

  • I-912, Request for Fee Waiver – Used to request a waiver of fees for certain immigration forms by applicants who demonstrate an inability to pay.

  • G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative – Allows someone, such as an attorney, to act on an individual’s behalf when dealing with the USCIS.

  • N-400, Application for Naturalization – Used to apply for US citizenship.

  • DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form – Needed to obtain a nonimmigrant visa.

General Information for Completing Most Forms

Each form will ask for a specific amount and type of information, although there are general things you can do to most effectively complete each form and ensure its acceptance by the relevant US immigration authorities.

  • Many forms are periodically revised, so make sure you’re completing the most recent version.

  • Whenever possible, download an electronic version of the form (in PDF format) and fill it out on a computer. This ensures all information will be legible.

  • If completing a form by hand, use blank ink and write as legibly as possible.

  • If you make a mistake completing a form by hand, do not use correction tape or fluid. The USCIS uses special scanners to read forms which cannot properly read information that has been written over correction tape or fluid.

  • Most of the time, you should avoid leaving any section blank. If a question on the form doesn’t apply to you, write “N/A” or “not applicable.” One exception to this when you’re asking to provide a middle name when you don’t have one. Instead of writing in “N/A” or “not applicable,” you can leave that part of the form blank.

  • Don’t forget to sign the forms.

  • If supporting documentation is submitted, don’t send an original copy unless specifically required to.

  • All supporting documentation must be in English or must have a certified translation of the document.

  • Every page of supporting documentation should include your name and A-Number (if available).

  • Confirm the exact location to send in the form. If a form is sent to the wrong location, it can often be forwarded to the proper destination, but will delay the processing of your form.

  • When providing your name, which can be formatted or written multiple ways, write it exactly the same way across all forms.

  • Keep a copy of the form filed, any supporting documentation attached and a proof of delivery, such as a mailing receipt and tracking number.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Complete These Forms?

You are not legally required to have an attorney help you complete immigration forms. However, there may be a need for a skilled immigration attorney, especially in unique situations where you may have a criminal history, immigration violations or are otherwise considered by US immigration authorities as inadmissible. An immigration lawyer will understand the intricacies of immigration law, identify any potential problems and determine how to most effectively present your position to immigration authorities so you can obtain the immigration benefits you seek. The last thing you want is your failures or mistakes compromising your future and legal status.

For example, an immigration official may be able to tell you that you need to attach an additional document explaining a certain event in your past that might be preventing you from getting the immigration benefit you need. But an immigration attorney will know how to best write and explain that event and include additional information to provide a more complete picture of what happened and why that past event should not prevent you from receiving your requested immigration benefit.

Then there’s the fact that immigration attorneys have plenty of experience completing these immigration forms. They understand exactly what the USCIS or US Department of State is requesting (or not requesting) and can help you complete forms more quickly and easily. Even one mistake, no matter how innocent, can cause serious delays in your immigration application or petition.

Finally, you don’t know what you don’t know. So even if an immigration official or other non-lawyer could help you answer a question on a form, if you don’t know that there is a potential issue with a question or with the answer you have provided, you will never realize this until after you’ve completed you form and submitted it. Much of what an attorney does is spot potential red flags before they become major problems.

Skilled Immigration Counsel Navigating the Immigration Process

If you are questioning the process or whether you need an immigration attorney then you likely do in fact want an immigration lawyer to shepherd you through the applications and paperwork. Some time and an affordable amount of money today can save you from headache and rejection tomorrow.

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