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Top 10 Green Card Application Mistakes

Every year more than 1 million people apply to get a green card in the United States. This is an important moment in each one of these families lives, and for many, it is their first step towards citizenship in the United States. All of those green card applications mean a lot of paperwork for the US Citizenship and Immigration services (USCIS), and it also means a lot of mistakes. Mistakes can lead to delays, rejections, and in some cases, denials.

We have put together this list of some of the most common reasons green card applications are rejected. Reading this list will help you avoid some of the most common errors that people make when submitting their green card application.

1. Missing forms in your application

Potential Time Lost: 6 months to 2 years

Potential Money Lost: $500

A green card application is not one form that you fill out and submit to the US government. It is not that easy. That would make too much sense. A green card application is a complex web of about 8 to 12 different government forms and various supporting documents. All of these forms make up a complete green card application. Now you may be submitting an adjustment of status application for a relative already in the United States or you might be trying to apply for a green card for a spouse or parent that is in a different country. Either way, you are going to be submitting several forms to eventually get the green card.

Missing some of the required forms is an easy way to slow things down for your application. For example, in some cases you can submit all of the required forms to the US government at the same time. This is called a concurrent filing. This will cut down your process time by years. But make sure that you don’t miss any of the forms or you will lose valuable time.

2. Missing document translations

Potential Time Lost: 6 months

When you file a green card application you will be submitting many supporting documents to back up your information and prove that you really are who you say you are. The types of documents that you have to submit are birth certificates, marriage certificates, driver’s licenses, passports, visas, bank accounts, etc. If you are not from an English-speaking country, your green card application documents will need to be translated into English. Not getting your documents translated and getting the translation certified can delay your application by up to 6 months.

3. Forgetting to sign your forms

Potential Time Lost: 6 months

Potential Money Lost: $50-$100

All of the work spent on making sure you have a perfect application can be wasted if you don’t sign your forms AND sign them in the proper place. This is important: make sure that you SIGN ALL YOUR FORMS. Also, make sure that the correct person is signing the correct form. Some places the person getting the green card will be signing, the applicant or beneficiary. Sometimes the person who is sponsoring the person getting the green card will be signing, this person can be referred to as a petitioner or applicant on the actual USCIS forms. This part is tricky, but getting it wrong means an automatic rejection by the USCIS. Take a few minutes to double-check everything before shipping it off to the government.

4. Incorrect government payment

Potential Money Lost: 2 – 4 months

Many people mess up the actual fees that the government charges to process the green card application. The USCIS is charging you a lot for your 300 page application and you need to make sure that you are signing your personal checks correctly and for the right amounts. The instructions on the USCIS forms will tell you how much it cost to process each form/application. If you are submitting an application for a green card, expect to be sending at least $1,000 to the US government. If you are only attaching a check for $100 or $300, then something is wrong. The USCIS will send your application back with an invoice for the correct amount. This will put you at the back of the line and leave you feeling frustrated.

5. Missing an important deadline

Potential Time Lost: 6 months

Potential Other Possible Repercussions: Denied Application

Once you enter the United States and begin your green card application process, the clock starts ticking with several important deadlines that you need to be aware of. You need to think about your visa expiration date, the dates for processing the application, the dates for the interview and finally the renewal deadline 2 years after. Missing these dates can be dangerous and result in a denied application. The US government takes these deadlines very seriously and will assume that you do not want to become a lawful permanent resident if you miss one. Make sure that you have a clear understanding of the timing of the application and where you will need to be when the time comes to avoid missing out on that appointment and becoming a green card holder.

6. Accidently giving false information

Potential Time Loss: 6 months – 1 year

Potential Other Possible Repercussions: LIFETIME BAN FROM US

Getting your background history wrong, even by accident, can be seen as lying on your application. If the US government thinks that you are lying on your application, you WILL get denied and may have to leave the United States forever. Make sure that you have all of your dates, locations, criminal records, and important items handy while you are filling out the application. This way you can avoid mixing up your own history and getting banned from the United States.

7. Falling for a scam

Potential Time Lost: 6 months – 2 years

Potential Money Lost: $500 – 5,000+

There are thousands of people trying to take advantage of immigrants every year. Notarios are just one type of scam out there. The most important thing to remember when going through the green card application process is “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. Stay away from online websites that ask for a credit card without guarantees. Avoid shady lawyers that demand payments before hearing your case. Do your homework before trusting someone to help you with your immigration paperwork. If you make the mistake of getting scammed, you may lose your chances of becoming a legal permanent resident forever.

8. Not getting the right help

Potential Time Lost: 6 months

If you try to do something really complicated without any help, all by yourself, there is a good chance you will make a mistake. If you are learning to play chess, then mistakes are good, you will grow from them and be ready to not make them the next game. Immigration is not a game and mistakes are costly. Don’t waste valuable time and money trying to do everything by yourself. Immigration paperwork is scary even for people that speak English fluently. There are many organizations and resources to help you through this process. Use the resources and avoid mistakes. Every year, more than 100,000 applications are rejected by the USCIS due to avoidable mistakes. With the right help, you can easily avoid these mistakes and save yourself months and years of waiting. Not getting help can be one of the most costly mistakes.

9. Not being eligible to apply

Potential Time Lost: 6 months

If you submit a green card application and you don’t qualify, you will get rejected. This is a no-brainer, but sometimes figuring out when and how you can actually apply can be really tricky. If you make the mistake of submitting a green card application too soon, too late, with the wrong person, or for a thousand other reasons, you will lose months of valuable time. The USCIS has tools to help you figure this out. Even after doing your homework, sometimes it is helpful to consult with an immigration attorney to make sure you are not missing something important.

Find out if you’re eligible to apply right here:

Are you eligible to apply for a Green Card?

Are you currently living in the United States?

Have you lived in the US for more than 3 months?

Did you enter the United States with an active visa or green card?

Are you married to a US citizen?

Do you have an immediate family member that is a U.S. Citizen or is a Green Card holder?

Analyzing Eligibility

We're sorry.

You are probably not eligible to apply.

If you would like to apply for a Green Card, instead of a Renewal, we can help you.


You are eligible to apply for a Green Card with SimpleCitizen!

10. Financial requirement issues

Potential Time Lost: 2-4 months

When you submit a green card application you need to have a financial sponsor. This financial sponsor will be submitting the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. There are several requirements for this person to be your financial sponsor; they need to be a US citizen, they need to live in the US, and they need to meet the income requirements as outlined in the Form I-864P, Poverty Guidelines for the Affidavit of Support.

When your sponsor doesn’t make enough money, they can have someone else step in as a joint-sponsor to include their income to meet the requirements. Adding another person like this also increases the amount of income needed. There could be a whole different 5 Common Mistakes Made on the Form I-864, and for this reason, it is a common trap for people trying to get a green card. Read the instructions carefully to make sure that if your petitioner doesn’t meet the requirements, that you are working with someone that does meet the requirements for their household size, plus the person that will be getting the green card.

This is not a complete list. There are many mistakes that people can make when submitting a green card application. These are just some of the most common. If you take your time and are very careful you will make it through this process without too much trouble. This is an exciting part of your life and you shouldn’t be worried and stressed about paperwork.

Updated on January 15, 2020

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