How to File Perfect USCIS Forms for Family Green Cards

Applicants and Sponsors generally underestimate the time, effort, and attention to details completing USCIS Forms I-130, I-485, I-864, and I-131 require. Many learn this too late when their Green Card case is rejected by USCIS, or processing is delayed by a Request for Evidence.

Here are some Guiding Principles to do your USCIS forms right, illustrated with examples from USCIS Forms and Immigration Planner’s online smart forms.

1st Principle

Answer using the right Vocabulary

Like the rest of us, use Google Address to make sure all the addresses you enter are properly spelled and formatted.

Addresses recognized by Google are more likely to be recognized by USCIS (and later the U.S. Postal Service- USPS- when they send you notices).

Google Address Lookup
Google Lookup Address Transfer
USCIS Exact Language

U.S. immigration agencies have a very specific vocabulary. They want answers that fit exactly their entries, in content and format.

So that is the approach you have to take throughout forms.
Example: The Green Card Category of the sponsor can be ‘A11’, but is not ‘A-11’ or ‘A1-1’.

Green Card Category

There are specific Port of Entries that make sense to USCIS.
Example: ‘JFK Airport’ is not a place of entry, but ‘New York, NY’ is.

Place of Entry

Use the present names of the State Department for countries.
Example: ‘Country of Birth’ of an applicant born in the former Yugoslavia might today be Montenegro.

Country of Birth

We build our country list using the State Department official choices.
We suggest you do the same and confirm official labels and choices when in doubt.

State Department: Independent States in the World

2nd Principle

Learn the power of N/A and NONE

‘N/A’ is a way to remind you that the question does not apply to you. It makes a USCIS Form easier to read.

N/A is transferred to the PDF
N/A Fields in PDF
Applicant Government Numbers
Government Numbers: NONE

‘NONE’ is an active way to say ‘No’ (or zero).

  • Does the applicant have an Alien Number?
    ‘N/A’ should not be used here. USCIS may view it as an attempt to avoid answering the question without explicitly lying.
  • Leaving the fields blank creates an ambiguity. Did you forget to answer a question or was this on purpose?

Example: Do not leave empty ‘Other Names’ questions. Be sure to enter NONE.

3rd Principle

Leave no question behind

When you do not know the answer to a question, just skip it and move to the next one. Never enter ‘fake’ placeholder information in your Forms. You are highly likely to leave some of that information in.

Missing Answers
Error Notification

When you do not know one of the answers in a section, consider skipping the entire section. You can return to it when you are ready.

5-year histories are tricky, especially with paper forms.
For Employment, add an ‘Unemployed’ entry to avoid gaps longer than a week.

Missing Information: Employment History
Unemployed to cover the over 1 week gap

Make sure to take a moment to reflect on the information you should have.

Missing A-Number Notification

Obviously do not forget key information associated with your situation.

Missing I-94 Notification