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Common Immigration Forms and Their Purpose

Updated: Mar 12


Immigration to the United States

Introduction

Immigration forms are documents that allow people to apply for various immigration benefits, such as visas, green cards, citizenship, asylum, or refugee status. They are important because they help the government to determine who is eligible to enter or stay in the country, and what rights and obligations they have.


There are many types of immigration forms, depending on the purpose and situation of the applicant. Some of the main ones are:


- Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative. This form is used by U.S. citizens or permanent residents who want to sponsor their family members for immigration.

- Form I-485: Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This form is used by people who are already in the U.S. and want to become permanent residents (get a green card).

- Form N-400: Application for Naturalization. This form is used by permanent residents who want to become U.S. citizens.

- Form I-589: Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal. This form is used by people who fear persecution in their home country and seek protection in the U.S.

- Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization. This form is used by people who are authorized to work in the U.S. but need a work permit (such as asylum seekers, students, or spouses of visa holders).


Form

Purpose

Eligibility

Process

Benefits

Limitations

​I-130

​Petition for Alien Relative

​U.S. citizen or permanent resident sponsoring an eligible relative

​File online or by mail with USCIS, pay fees, submit evidence, wait for approval or denial

​Allows the relative to apply for a green card or an immigrant visa

​Does not guarantee a green card or an immigrant visa, subject to numerical limits and preference categories, may take a long time

I-485

​Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status

​Applicant is physically present in the U.S. and eligible for a green card based on family, employment, asylum, diversity lottery or other categories

​File online or by mail with USCIS, pay fees, submit evidence, attend biometrics appointment and interview, wait for approval or denial

​Allows the applicant to become a permanent resident without leaving the U.S.

​Does not apply to applicants outside the U.S., subject to visa availability and admissibility requirements, may take a long time

​N-400

​Application for Naturalization

​Applicant is a permanent resident for at least 3 or 5 years (depending on the category), meets the age, residence, physical presence, good moral character and other requirements

​File online or by mail with USCIS, pay fees, submit evidence, attend biometrics appointment and interview, take the civics and English tests, wait for approval or denial, attend the oath ceremony

​Allows the applicant to become a U.S. citizen with all the rights and responsibilities thereof

​Does not apply to applicants who do not meet the requirements or who have certain criminal or immigration violations, may require renouncing previous citizenship

​I-765

​Application for Employment Authorization

​Applicant is eligible for work authorization based on their immigration status or pending application (such as asylum seeker, student, spouse of certain visa holders etc.)

​File online or by mail with USCIS, pay fees, submit evidence, wait for approval or denial

​Allows the applicant to work legally in the U.S. for a specified period of time

​Does not apply to applicants who are not eligible for work authorization or who have certain criminal or immigration violations, may expire or be revoked

I-131

​Application for Travel Document

​Applicant is a permanent resident, conditional resident, refugee, asylee or applicant for adjustment of status who needs to travel outside the U.S. for humanitarian, educational or employment reasons

​File online or by mail with USCIS, pay fees, submit evidence, wait for approval or denial

​Allows the applicant to travel outside the U.S. without abandoning their immigration status or application and re-enter the U.S. upon return

​Does not apply to applicants who do not need a travel document or who have certain criminal or immigration violations, may expire or be revoked

​I-864

​Affidavit of Support

​Sponsor is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who is petitioning for a relative to immigrate to the U.S. or has signed a contract to sponsor a diversity immigrant

​File online or by mail with USCIS or DOS (depending on the case), submit evidence of income and assets, sign a legally binding contract to support the immigrant financially until they become a citizen or work for 40 quarters

​Allows the immigrant to overcome the public charge ground of inadmissibility and receive a green card or an immigrant visa

​Does not apply to immigrants who are exempt from the public charge ground of inadmissibility (such as refugees and asylees), creates a legal obligation for the sponsor to repay any means-tested public benefits received by the immigrant

​DS-260

Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application

​Applicant is outside the U.S. and eligible for an immigrant visa based on family, employment, diversity lottery or other categories

​Complete online with DOS, pay fees, submit evidence, attend medical examination and interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, wait for approval or denial

​Allows the applicant to receive an immigrant visa and travel to the U.S. to become a permanent resident upon admission at a port of entry

​Does not apply to applicants who are already in the U.S., subject to visa availability and admissibility requirements, may take a long time


Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative

Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative is a form that U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPRs) can use to establish their relationship to an eligible relative who wishes to immigrate to the United States and get a Green Card. The relative who is being sponsored is called the beneficiary.


The eligibility requirements for filing Form I-130 depend on the type of relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary. The following relatives can be sponsored by U.S. citizens:


- Spouses

- Children (unmarried and under 21 years old)

- Sons and daughters (married and/or 21 years or older)

- Parents (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years or older)

- Brothers and sisters (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years or older)


The following relatives can be sponsored by LPRs:


- Spouses

- Children (unmarried and under 21 years old)

- Sons and daughters (unmarried and 21 years or older)


There are some special situations where other relatives may be eligible, such as adopted children, stepchildren, stepparents, orphans, and widows/widowers of U.S. citizens. For more information on these cases, please refer to the Form I-130 instructions.


The process of filing Form I-130 involves completing the form and submitting it to USCIS along with the required evidence of the relationship, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, photos, etc. The petitioner also has to pay a filing fee of $535. The form can be filed online or by mail.


The benefits of filing Form I-130 are that it allows the beneficiary to apply for a Green Card either through adjustment of status (if they are already in the United States) or through consular processing (if they are outside the United States). However, the approval of Form I-130 does not guarantee that the beneficiary will get a Green Card. They still have to meet other eligibility criteria and wait for a visa number to become available if they are subject to annual numerical limits based on their preference category and country of origin.


The limitations of filing Form I-130 are that it does not give the beneficiary any immigration status or benefit while they wait for their Green Card application to be processed. They cannot work or travel legally in the United States unless they have another valid visa or authorization. They also cannot bring their spouses or children with them unless they file separate petitions for them. Additionally, they may face long waiting times depending on their preference category and country of origin.


Form I-485: Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status

Form I-485 is a form that allows certain foreign nationals who are already in the United States to apply for lawful permanent resident status, also known as a Green Card. This process is called adjustment of status.


To be eligible to file Form I-485, you must meet one of the following categories:


- You have an approved immigrant petition (such as Form I-130, Form I-140, or Form I-360) and a visa number is available for your preference category and country of chargeability;

- You are applying as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen (such as a spouse, parent, or child under 21 years old);

- You are applying as a refugee or asylee who has been in the United States for at least one year after being granted refugee or asylee status;

- You are applying under the Cuban Adjustment Act, the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act, or other special laws for certain countries or groups;

- You are applying as a victim of human trafficking (T nonimmigrant), a victim of a qualifying crime (U nonimmigrant), or a self-petitioner under the Violence Against Women Act;

- You are applying as a special immigrant juvenile who has been abused, abandoned, or neglected by one or both parents;

- You are applying based on a diversity visa lottery selection;

- You are applying based on other grounds specified by law or regulation.


To file Form I-485, you must submit the following documents and fees to USCIS:


- A completed and signed Form I-485;

- The appropriate filing fee and biometric services fee (unless you are exempt or eligible for a fee waiver);

- Two passport-style photos;

- A copy of your government-issued identity document with photograph;

- A copy of your birth certificate or other evidence of your date and place of birth;

- A copy of your passport page with nonimmigrant visa (if applicable);

- A copy of your passport page with admission or parole stamp (if applicable);

- A copy of your Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record (if applicable);

- A copy of your approved immigrant petition or relative petition (if applicable);

- Evidence of your eligibility for adjustment of status based on your specific category;

- Evidence of your financial support and ability to maintain the required income level (such as Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, or Form I-864W, Intending Immigrant's Affidavit of Support Exemption);

- Evidence of your health and vaccination status (such as Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record);

- Evidence of any criminal history or immigration violations (such as certified court records, police reports, or waivers);

- Any other supporting documents or information requested by USCIS.


The benefits of filing Form I-485 include:


- You can obtain lawful permanent resident status and a Green Card if your application is approved;

- You can apply for work authorization (Form I-765) and travel permission (Form I-131) while your application is pending;

- You can remain in the United States legally while your application is pending (unless you are subject to removal proceedings or have certain criminal convictions);

- You can apply for certain public benefits and services that are available to lawful permanent residents.


The limitations of filing Form I-485 include:


- You may not be able to change or extend your nonimmigrant status while your application is pending;

- You may not be able to travel outside the United States without advance permission from USCIS;

- You may face delays in processing your application due to high demand, background checks, security clearances, or requests for additional evidence;

- You may be denied adjustment of status if you are found ineligible for any reason, such as fraud, misrepresentation, criminal activity, immigration violations, health issues, public charge, or national security concerns.


For more information about Form I-485 and adjustment of status, please visit the USCIS website at https://www.uscis.gov/i-485 or consult an immigration attorney or accredited representative.

Immigration Forms Preparation

Form N-400: Application for Naturalization

Form N-400 is a government form used by green card holders who are ready to apply for U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process. Naturalization is the process in which a person not born in the United States voluntarily becomes a U.S. citizen.


To be eligible to file Form N-400, you must meet certain requirements, such as being at least 18 years old, having a valid green card for at least five years (or three years if married to a U.S. citizen), having continuous residence and physical presence in the United States, being able to read, write, and speak basic English, having good moral character, and being willing to support the U.S. Constitution and obey its laws.


The process of filing Form N-400 involves completing the form online or by mail, submitting the required documents and fees, attending a biometrics appointment, taking a naturalization test, and attending an interview and oath ceremony. You can check your eligibility, file online, track your case status, and find more information on the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov/n-400.


The benefits of filing Form N-400 and becoming a U.S. citizen include being able to vote in federal elections, travel with a U.S. passport, apply for federal jobs and benefits, sponsor relatives for immigration, and enjoy the rights and freedoms of a U.S. citizen. The limitations of filing Form N-400 include having to renounce any previous citizenship or allegiance to another country, being subject to U.S. taxes and laws, and being eligible for military service if required.


Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization

Form I-765 is a form that allows certain foreign nationals to apply for a work permit in the United States. A work permit, also known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), is a card that shows that you are authorized to work in the U.S. for a specific period of time.


To file Form I-765, you must meet one of the eligibility categories listed on the form instructions. Some of the common categories include:


- Asylees and refugees

- Students seeking optional practical training (OPT)

- Spouses of certain visa holders

- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients

- Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries

- Applicants for adjustment of status


The process of filing Form I-765 varies depending on your eligibility category. In general, you will need to:


- Complete and sign Form I-765

- Attach supporting documents, such as proof of identity, proof of eligibility, and photos

- Pay the filing fee, if required

- Mail your application to the appropriate address or file online, if eligible


You can check the status of your application online or by calling the USCIS Contact Center.


The benefits of filing Form I-765 include:


- Being able to work legally in the U.S. and earn income

- Being able to obtain a Social Security number and a driver's license

- Being able to travel outside the U.S., if you have a valid travel document


The limitations of filing Form I-765 include:


- Having to renew your EAD before it expires, if you want to continue working

- Having to maintain your underlying immigration status or eligibility category

- Having to comply with the terms and conditions of your EAD and your immigration status


Form I-131: Application for Travel Document

Form I-131 is an application for a travel document that allows certain individuals to travel outside the United States and return without a visa. Depending on the applicant's status and purpose of travel, Form I-131 can be used to apply for one of the following types of travel documents:


- Re-entry permit: This document is for permanent residents or conditional residents who want to travel abroad for one year or more and maintain their status in the United States. A re-entry permit establishes that the applicant did not intend to abandon their residence in the United States.

- Refugee travel document: This document is for refugees or asylees who want to travel outside the United States and return. A refugee travel document also allows them to travel to their country of origin, unless there are compelling reasons not to do so. Permanent residents who obtained their status through refugee or asylee admission can also apply for this document.

- Advance parole document: This document is for individuals who have a pending application for certain immigration benefits, such as adjustment of status, asylum, or Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and who want to travel abroad for humanitarian, educational, or employment reasons. An advance parole document allows them to return to the United States without a visa and continue their pending application process. Individuals who are outside the United States and have been paroled into the country for humanitarian reasons can also apply for this document.


To be eligible for a travel document, applicants must meet certain requirements depending on the type of document they are applying for. Some of these requirements are:


- For a re-entry permit, applicants must be permanent residents or conditional residents who are physically present in the United States when they file Form I-131 and when they receive their biometrics appointment notice. They must also provide a valid reason for their prolonged absence from the United States.

- For a refugee travel document, applicants must be refugees or asylees who are physically present in the United States when they file Form I-131 and when they receive their biometrics appointment notice. They must also maintain their refugee or asylee status and not have obtained permanent resident status (unless they are applying as permanent residents who obtained their status through refugee or asylee admission).

- For an advance parole document, applicants must have a pending application for certain immigration benefits, such as adjustment of status, asylum, or TPS, and demonstrate that their travel is for humanitarian, educational, or employment reasons. They must also be physically present in the United States when they file Form I-131 and when they receive their biometrics appointment notice (unless they are applying from outside the United States).


To apply for a travel document, applicants must complete Form I-131 and submit it with the required fee and supporting documents to the appropriate USCIS office. The fee varies depending on the applicant's age and type of document. The supporting documents may include proof of identity, proof of status, proof of reason for travel, and passport photos. Applicants may also need to attend a biometrics appointment at a USCIS Application Support Center to provide their fingerprints, photograph, and signature.


The benefits of having a travel document are:


- It allows applicants to travel outside the United States and return without a visa (except for advance parole applicants who may need a visa depending on their country of origin).

- It prevents applicants from losing their status or abandoning their residence in the United States due to prolonged absence (for re-entry permit applicants) or returning to their country of origin (for refugee travel document applicants).

- It allows applicants to continue their pending application process for certain immigration benefits without interruption (for advance parole applicants).


The limitations of having a travel document are:


- It does not guarantee admission into the United States. Applicants may still be subject to inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the port of entry.

- It does not extend or change the applicant's status or grant any new rights or privileges.

- It may expire before the applicant's intended date of return. Applicants should check the validity period of their travel document and plan their trip accordingly.


Form I-864: Affidavit of Support

Form I-864: Affidavit of Support is a form that U.S. citizens and permanent residents can use to sponsor an immigrant for a green card. The sponsor agrees to use their financial resources to support the immigrant if they are unable to support themselves. The sponsor must meet certain income requirements and provide evidence of their income and assets. The sponsor is legally responsible for the immigrant until they become a U.S. citizen or earn 40 quarters of work.


To file Form I-864: Affidavit of Support, the sponsor must be at least 18 years old and have a domicile in the United States. The sponsor must also be related to the immigrant in one of the following ways: spouse, parent, child, sibling, or employer. The sponsor must submit Form I-864 along with the immigrant's visa application or adjustment of status application. The sponsor must also provide copies of their tax returns, W-2 forms, bank statements, and other documents to prove their income and assets.


Form I-864: Affidavit of Support has several benefits and limitations for both the sponsor and the immigrant. The benefits include helping the immigrant qualify for a green card and ensuring that they have adequate financial support in the United States. The limitations include making the sponsor liable for any public benefits that the immigrant receives and preventing the sponsor from withdrawing their support unless they die, become bankrupt, or are released by a court order.

Immigration Forms Specialist

Form DS-260: Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application

Form DS-260: Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application


Form DS-260 is an online form that must be completed and submitted by foreign nationals who are applying for an immigrant visa or a diversity visa to the United States. This form collects biographical information, immigration history, and other relevant details about the applicant and their family members. The purpose of this form is to determine the applicant's eligibility for a visa and to register them as an alien in the United States.


To file Form DS-260, the applicant must have a case number assigned by the National Visa Center (NVC) or the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC). The case number is usually given after the applicant's petition or entry has been approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or the Department of State (DOS). The applicant must also have an invoice ID number to access the online form.


The applicant must fill out Form DS-260 for themselves and each accompanying family member (spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old). The applicant must provide accurate and complete information on the form and upload any required documents, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, police certificates, etc. The applicant must also pay any applicable fees online before submitting the form.


After submitting Form DS-260, the applicant must print the confirmation page and bring it to their visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. The applicant may also need to submit additional supporting documents to the NVC or KCC before scheduling their interview. The applicant should check their visa status online regularly and follow the instructions given by the NVC or KCC.


Form DS-260 is a mandatory step in the immigrant visa or diversity visa process. It allows the U.S. government to verify the applicant's identity, background, and qualifications for a visa. It also helps the applicant to prepare for their interview and arrival in the United States.


However, Form DS-260 does not guarantee that the applicant will receive a visa or a green card. The final decision is made by a consular officer who will review the applicant's form, documents, and interview answers. The consular officer may also ask for additional information or evidence from the applicant if needed. The applicant must also meet all other requirements for admission to the United States, such as medical examination, security clearance, etc.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Where can I find the official immigration forms and instructions?

A: You can find the official immigration forms and instructions on the websites of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS). You can also download them for free or request them by mail. Do not use any forms or instructions from unofficial sources, as they may be outdated, inaccurate or fraudulent.

Q: How much do the immigration forms cost?

A: The immigration forms have different fees depending on the type and category of the form. You can find the current fees on the USCIS and DOS websites. You can pay the fees online, by mail or in person, depending on the form and the case. Some forms may have fee waivers or exemptions for certain applicants who meet the criteria.

Q: How long do the immigration forms take to process?

A: The processing times of the immigration forms vary depending on the type and category of the form, the volume of applications, the location of the office or consulate, the availability of visas and other factors. You can check the estimated processing times on the USCIS and DOS websites. You can also check the status of your application online or by phone, email or mail.

Q: What are the common mistakes to avoid when filling out the immigration forms?

A: Some of the common mistakes to avoid when filling out the immigration forms are:

  • Filling out the wrong form or version

  • Leaving blank spaces or providing incomplete or inaccurate information

  • Forgetting to sign and date the form

  • Forgetting to attach the required evidence and documents

  • Sending the form to the wrong address or office

  • Missing the deadline or filing too early

These mistakes could cause delays, denials, rejections or requests for evidence that could affect your immigration case.

Q: Do I need a lawyer to fill out the immigration forms?

A: You do not need a lawyer to fill out the immigration forms, but it is highly recommended that you consult one if you have any questions or concerns about your immigration case. A lawyer can help you understand your options, eligibility, rights and responsibilities, as well as guide you through the process and represent you before the authorities. A lawyer can also help you avoid common mistakes and pitfalls that could jeopardize your immigration case. Make sure you hire a qualified immigration attorney or accredited representative who is authorized to practice immigration law in the U.S.


Conclusion

In this blog post, we have discussed some of the common immigration forms and their purpose. We have seen that immigration forms are used to apply for various benefits and statuses, such as permanent residence, citizenship, asylum, employment authorization, family reunification, and more. We have also learned that immigration forms have different requirements and fees, depending on the type of application and the applicant's situation.


If you need further information or assistance on immigration forms, here are some tips and resources that might help you:


- Visit the official website of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at https://www.uscis.gov/forms/all-forms to find and download all the forms you need. You can also file some forms online and check the status of your application.

- Consult an immigration lawyer or an accredited representative if you have complex or specific questions about your case or eligibility. You can find a list of authorized legal service providers at https://www.justice.gov/eoir/list-pro-bono-legal-service-providers-map.

- Consider using the preparation service of Bohemian Notary & Apostille Services LLC, a trusted and experienced company that offers affordable and reliable immigration forms preparation services. You can contact them at https://www.atlnotarypro.com to get a free consultation and quote.


We hope this blog post has been informative and helpful for you. Thank you for reading and good luck with your immigration journey!


  • Immigration forms are essential documents that allow you to apply for various immigration benefits and statuses in the United States.

  • There are many types of immigration forms, each with its own purpose, eligibility requirements, process, benefits and limitations.

  • Some of the most common immigration forms are:

    • Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative

    • Form I-485: Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status

    • Form N-400: Application for Naturalization

    • Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization

    • Form I-131: Application for Travel Document

    • Form I-864: Affidavit of Support

    • Form DS-260: Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application


  • You should always consult the official instructions and websites of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) before filing any immigration form.

  • You should also seek professional guidance from a qualified immigration attorney or accredited representative if you have any questions or concerns about your immigration case.

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