Importance of Record-Keeping

Published on    30 June 2014     Hits: 583

Record keeping is part of life.  A good habit makes life a lot easier.   Good record-keeping and document organization is especially a good  habit for immigrants as they may not only come in handy in the future  but also help them to maintain their immigrant status.

1.  Travel Documents:

Do not throw away old passports and write down your current passport’s  number in several places.  We have had U.S. Consulates and USCIS  inquire about past entries more than 10 years ago.  It is also a good  idea to make photocopies of the U.S. entry stamps and past and present  I-94sand keep them somewhere secure so that even if you lose your  passport and I-94 with it, there is a proof of your lawful entry.  Also  make sure to calendar the expiration date of your travel documents and  especially I-94.  This way, you can make sure that your documents are  current for emergency travel, and you do not overstay your allowed  period of stay.

For temporary residents in the United States, not having evidence of  lawful entry can be a major problem in their future immigration cases.   Even if one qualifies under every requirement, if there is no proof of  lawful entry, one’s case can be rejected or put on hold indefinitely.

2.  Personal Documents:

A surprising number of people I meet do not keep their personal  documents with them and often leave them in care of a spouse or parent.   No matter how responsible that person is, one should make sure to know  where to find them.  I know of many people who went through personal  crisis or family loss and, when the turmoil was over, could no longer  locate their own documents.  Among these useful documents are certified  copies of birth, marriage, divorce, and other family relationship  certificates as well as immigration-issued documents and complete and  organized copies of one’s immigration filings (whether through an  attorney or by oneself). 

3.  Financial Documents:

Bank account statements, tax returns, pay-stubs, and W-2s and major  financial activities such as wire-transfer receipts and contractual  documents should be kept for as long as they matter.  These documents  help to establish one’s financial ability to sponsor a family member,  one’s maintaining status through lawful employment, and one’s ability to  make investments in the United States, etc.

4.  Documents Tracking One’s Life Achievements:

When we do National Interest Waiver or Extraordinary Ability cases, we  often hear our clients lament that “Had I known, I would’ve kept better  records…”  Scientists, business executives, professors, artists often do  not keep track of their own activities and achievements.  However, when  it comes to immigration, up-to-date resumes, degree certificates,  transcripts, awards, names of references and contacts, employment  verifications, programs featuring one’s name, copies of publications,  invitation letters, thank you letters, and press clippings are all  valuable and tangible evidence useful in one’s case.  It is hard to go  back several years and begin to collect such evidence. 

Although it seems to be common sense, many people realize too late how  important it is to keep good records for an unexpected moment.  One must  remember the burden of proof is with the applicant and not with the  government even if government issued documents.  Do make a habit of good  record-keeping.  It takes a little bit of time and care now but can  save one from big trouble and a lot of anxiety in the future. 

Mario Guevara-Martinez