FOR almost all immigration benefits, you should save and preserve documents to establish eligibility for that particular benefit. Many people state that, for one reason or another, they no longer have documents relating to their immigration history. They moved several times and lost track of the documents; they got angry because their case was denied and tore up the paperwork, burned it and threw the ashes into the Pasig River; or lost documents or they were destroyed due to natural calamities (e.g. flood, lahar), or termites ate the paperwork, etc.
Had they kept track of the documents or put them in a safe place, their chances of success would have been greater. But now the case could be more difficult and expensive.
Among the documents you should keep are:
• Documents showing how you entered the U.S. This would include the passport and visa you entered the US on (even if under an assumed name), I – 94, other documents proving you were “inspected” at your port of entry.
• Documents showing your marriage(s) were bona fide and in good faith. If a person has ever been petitioned by a U.S. citizen spouse, the bona fides of that marriage may come up and be questioned at any later interview. This is because the law states that if a person has ever been in a fixed marriage, all future petitions will not be approved. Even if you get divorced from your spouse, you should continue to save the pictures, love letters, and other joint documents, just in case that issue arises in the future.
• Documents showing you worked for the employer. If you obtained a green card through an employer’s sponsorship (PERM/labor certification) you will need to prove you worked for the employer after being granted your green card. In some cases, a person quits before their adjustment is granted, or they never bothered working for the sponsoring employer. Years later, when they apply for citizenship, one of the first questions asked is whether they worked for the employer after getting the green card and proof of employment, such as paystubs.
• Documents relating to all filings with USCIS, including petitions, applications, approvals, and denials. Some people apply for various immigration benefits, whether they were eligible for them or not. Some may not have even realized what they were filing for. But those previous filings will come up with any future application for immigration benefits. Therefore, if your case was denied, don’t just rip up the denial and throw it in the fire. Save it. If you can no longer locate your documents, there are ways to obtain your file from the U.S. government.
• Documents showing your continuous residence in the U.S. Although there is no “amnesty” at the present time, we are still hoping and praying for comprehensive immigration reform. Almost all of these programs require that a person continuously resided in the U.S. for a certain number of years. Therefore, in case any kind of immigration reform is passed and requires your demonstrating continuous residence, save documents proving that, such as tax returns, doctor bills, rental agreements, phone bills, etc. Save them now, so that when comprehensive immigration reform is passed, you already have them available and organized, versus scrambling around trying to locate documents, which you may have lost or thrown out.
These are just a few examples of the type of documents you should be keeping in connection with your immigration case. Don’t just throw out things or lose track of them, as it may be critical to obtaining certain immigration benefits. In addition to keeping the paper copies of these documents, you may also want to scan and email them to yourself, so you can have access to the documents “in the cloud,” even if the paper copies are lost. And to be sure of the type of documents needed for a particular immigration benefit, you should seek the advice of an attorney who can assist you.
* * *
Michael J. Gurfinkel has been an attorney for over 35 years and is licensed, and an active member of the State Bar of California and New York. All immigration services are provided by, or under the supervision of, an active member of the State Bar of California. Each case is different. The information contained herein including testimonials, “Success Stories,” endorsements and re-enactments) is of a general nature, and is not intended to apply to any particular case, and does not constitute a prediction, warranty, guarantee or legal advice regarding the outcome of your legal matter. No attorney-client relationship is, or shall be, established with any reader.
Follow us on Facebook.com/GurfinkelLaw and Twitter @GurfinkelLaw
Call Toll free to schedule a consultation for anywhere in the US:
Four offices to serve you: LOS ANGELES · SAN FRANCISCO · NEW YORK · PHILIPPINES