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.