If you entered the United States lawfully but lost proof of your lawful entry, it can be a challenging situation, especially if you're looking to adjust your status with USCIS (apply for a green card from within the United States).
Losing your passport, an I-94 or your previous visa documentation could mean you’ve lost your proof of lawful entry with it.
Proving lawful entry is crucial in such cases because lawful entry is a requirement for adjustment of status (USCIS I-485) in most cases. In this article, we will explore three effective strategies to demonstrate your lawful entry into the United States.
1. Utilize a FOIA Request to Department of State
A powerful tool in proving your lawful entry is submitting a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of State. The FOIA allows you to request information from any federal government agency, especially if it pertains to your own records. By submitting a FOIA request to the Department of State, you can sometimes obtain records related to the issuance of the visa that you used to enter the United States.
Although a visa issuance does not GUARANTEE that you entered the U.S. lawful, it significantly strengthens your case by showing that you were granted a visa to enter the United States legally. The intuitive implication is that most people don’t take the trouble to enter the U.S. unlawfully if they have a visa and can do so lawfully!
Note: At Malakouti Law, we haven’t published content yet on how to make FOIA requests just yet. In the interim, you can find a number of “how-to” FOIA resources online.
2. Gather Affidavits from Witnesses
Obtaining affidavits from yourself and any individuals who were with you during your entry into the United States can be valuable evidence.
For instance, if you entered the U.S. as a child with your parents, you can get affidavits from them stating the circumstances of your entry. These affidavits can detail whether you were waved through by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or if you lost your passport containing the entry stamp. While these “self-serving” declarations (meaning things you write that help yourself!) may not carry the same weight as other evidence, they can still add weight to your case.
3. Request Records from Other Government Agencies
In addition to the Department of State, other government agencies might possess records or information that indirectly indicates you were lawfully admitted to the U.S.
For example, if you received a Social Security number, it may show that you entered the U.S. legally if during the time, proof of lawful entry was required to get a social security number. You can submit a FOIA request to the Social Security Administration to obtain any relevant records or evidence associated with your lawful entry.
By gathering information from various government agencies, you can build a compelling case to prove your lawful entry into the United States. These strategies, including FOIA requests and affidavits from witnesses, are among the most accessible and useful tactics to establish lawful entry when applying for adjustment of status or a green card.
4. Video Explainer
Each immigration and citizenship case is particular and you should consult with a qualified immigration and citizenship lawyer about your case before taking any steps. The Law Office of Parviz Malakouti does not guarantee the accuracy of information presented nor assume responsibility for actions taken in reliance of this information. The information in this page could become outdated. Attorney marketing.