When applying for a green card, you have to submit additional documents with the completed official forms. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires you to submit a copy of your birth certificate when applying for a family-based green card like a marriage green card. Without the required supporting documents, USCIS will not process your green card application. This article explains the birth certificate requirement for green card applications and how to get a copy of your birth certificate to send in with your forms.
What are the birth certificate requirements for a green card application?
To apply for a family-based green card, the person who is a U.S. citizen or has a green card (the sponsor) and the person applying for a green card (the beneficiary) must both provide a copy of a birth certificate. They will need to submit this along with Form I-130, named “Petition for Alien Relative.” This form is also known as the family sponsorship form.
You and your green card sponsor must each provide a certified copy of your birth certificate. It must show the following information:
- Your full name
- Your date of birth
- Your place of birth
- Both of your parents’ full names
- The issuing agency’s official seal
- Registration date (must be within one year of your birth)
- Issue date (could be any time)
If your birth certificate is an abbreviated version of the original (known as an "extract"), it will exclude information that is only useful to the country or government agency that issued your birth record. However, check to ensure it includes all of the above information required for the green card application.
If your birth certificate is not in English, you will need to submit it with a certified English translation.
What if my birth certificate doesn't meet the requirements?
If your birth certificate does not meet the application requirements, you should submit a notarized personal affidavit. This is a written statement describing facts about your birth and explaining why you can't get a certified copy of your birth certificate. A notary, or an official third party, will then verify the message. Your explanation should be as specific as possible.
Alongside your notarized personal affidavit, you need to submit one of these kinds of secondary evidence:
- A baptismal certificate
- Census records
- A birth certificate issued by a local or military hospital
- A certification of birth from the doctor who delivered you
- A document from the appropriate government agency in your home country that explains why your birth record doesn't exist and explains if other, similar records are available
If a country other than the United States issued your birth record, check their guidelines for appropriate secondary evidence.
If you don’t have any of these kinds of secondary evidence, you should submit a notarized personal affidavit from a parent or another older close relative. This written statement should include:
- The person’s full name, address, date, and location of birth
- Their relationship with you
- How well they know you
- The date and place of your birth
- The names of both of your parents
- Other descriptions of the circumstances and facts of your birth
Where can I get a copy of my birth certificate?
The process to get a certified copy of your birth certificate for your green card application will depend on whether you were born in the United States or abroad.
I was born in the United States
If you were born in the United States, you would get your birth certificate from the vital records office in the state of your birthplace. You can find the name, contact information, and address of the vital records office through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC will also explain the processing fee to obtain an official copy.
I was born abroad
If you were born abroad, you should get your official birth certificate copy from the appropriate government agency. You can find this agency through the U.S. Department of State’s website. In the upper left-hand corner, click the first letter of your country's name. Then, select the country, and finally, click the "Birth, Death, and Burial Certificates" tab.
The U.S. Department of State will name the issuing authority, any additional fees, and the process for getting your birth record.
If the website states that your country’s birth certificates are “unavailable” or “nonexistent,” you will not need to submit this document.
Immigration authorities will not accept birth certificates from a consulate or embassy of your home country. You must submit a birth record from the proper issuing authority.
Applying for a green card can be complicated, but working with a good immigration attorney can make it easier. If you can't afford the attorney fees and don't want to handle your family-based green card case alone, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!