Immigration Papers: Your Proof of Immigration Status

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Immigration Papers

It is becoming increasingly important to have proof of your immigration status in the United States. Maintaining immigration papers, documentation, or proof of your legal status is essential if you have contact with law enforcement or immigration officials. In the current environment, even natural-born U.S. citizens can run into problems with identification. What’s more, immigration paperwork is generally necessary to obtain employment, gain access to many government benefits, secure housing, request driving privileges, just to name a few.

Foreign nationals who wish to work, get a driver’s license, or obtain other benefits must have the appropriate immigration papers to prove a lawful status. These papers come in a variety of types and can be confusing. Additionally, immigration documents must be valid and unexpired in most situations. If you have an expired or missing document, you’ll need to renew or replace it.

Documentation for U.S. Employment

In 1986, Congress enacted the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) in an effort to address the problem of people unlawfully immigrating to the United States without immigration papers and becoming employed by U.S. employers. IRCA requires all employers, regardless of number of employees, to verify the identity of new employees and their eligibility for employment in the United States.

As a result, all employers, regardless of size, must complete a Form I-9 upon hiring a new employee to work in the United States. Re-verification of eligibility for employment in the United States may also be required under certain circumstances.

To verify identity and prove employment authorization, foreign nationals may use a variety of documents. Employees can show a List A Document that proves identity and employment authorization. Alternatively, employees can show a List B Document to prove identity and a List C Document to prove employment authorization.

Examples of List A Documents for Foreign Nationals
  • Permanent Resident Card
  • Employment Authorization Card
  • Foreign passport with I-551 stamp
  • Foreign passport with I-94 record and work endorsement
Examples of List B Documents for Foreign Nationals
  • U.S. driver license
  • State-issued ID card
  • School ID with photograph
  • U.S. military ID
Examples of List C Documents for Foreign Nationals
  • Social Security Card (nonrestrictive)
  • Form I-94 (if employment authorization is part of the class)

The lists of examples above are not inclusive of all possible immigration papers for use in employment. Additional documents and some restrictions may apply. Please refer to USCIS I-9 Central for details.

Proof of Status for Driving

In the United States, the federal government does not issue driver's licenses. Each state issues their own driver's license. Consequently, there may be slightly different requirements in each state that affect foreign nationals.

Resident non-citizens who wish to drive a vehicle must obtain a driver's license from the state where they live. Again, each state may have different requirements. Generally, the following immigration papers may be used to apply for a driver's license:

  • Permanent Resident Card
  • Foreign passport with an approved I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
  • Employment Authorization Card
  • Foreign passport with an I-551 stamp
  • Re-entry Permit
  • Refugee Travel Document
  • Form I-94 stamped “REFUGEE,” “PAROLE”, or “PAROLEE,” “ASYLEE,” “HP,” “PIP,” Section(s) 207, 208, 209, or 212d(2).
  • Form I-94 with attached photo stamped “Temporary evidence of lawful admission for permanent residence.”
  • Immigration judge’s order granting asylum

For the specific driver's license requirements for your state, check your state's department of motor vehicles.

Immigration Papers for Health Insurance

Like natural-born U.S. citizens, foreign-born U.S. citizens are also generally eligible for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – also known as Obamacare. Additionally, permanent residents and many other lawfully present immigrants are eligible. To qualify, applicants will be required to submit immigration papers that prove their status such as:

  • Permanent Resident Card
  • Foreign passport with an approved I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
  • Employment Authorization Card
  • Foreign passport with an I-551 stamp
  • Re-entry Permit
  • Refugee Travel Document
  • Form I-94 with attached photo stamped “Temporary evidence of lawful admission for permanent residence.”

For a complete list of acceptable immigration document types, please visit

Replacing Immigration Documents

If your immigration papers are lost, stolen or damaged, you likely need to replace them. Depending on the type of immigration document, there is generally a way to replace it.

Citizenship Documents

Foreign-born persons who become U.S. citizens may prove their immigration status with a variety of documents including: Certificate of Citizenship, Certificate of Naturalization, or U.S. passport.

Certificate of Citizenship sample

To replace a Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship, you may file Form N-565, Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document.

To replace a U.S. passport, you can submit an application directly on the U.S. Department of State website.

Permanent Resident Card

Also known as a green card or resident alien card, the permanent resident card if proof of a foreign national's right to permanently live and work in the United States.

green card, immigration document replacement

To replace or renew a 10-year permanent resident card, you may file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. Conditional residents with a 2-year green card may replace a lost/stolen green card with Form I-90 but should not a renew a card with Form I-90. Instead, conditional residents file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, in the 90-day period before the 2-year card expires.

It can take several months to obtain a new green card. There is a way to get a "temporary green card." The method varies depending on the purpose of your application. If applying to renew your green card, USCIS will automatically extend the validity of your green card. On the other hand, applicants replacing a green card will need to request an ADIT stamp as temporary proof of permanent resident status.

Employment Authorization Card

A variety of foreign nationals with a nonimmigrant status may be eligible for an employment authorization document. Also known as a work permit, the card is proof of employment authorization for several visa types and other status. Some common immigration statuses eligible for an EAD include: adjustment of status applicant, DACA, TPS, and asylum/refugee grantees.

employment authorization card

To replace or renew an employment authorization card, you may file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. You must continue to qualify for employment authorization within the eligibility category for which you are applying. If your status has expired, you may also need to submit forms related to renewing your status.

I-94 Arrival Departure Record

The I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, also known as Form I-94, confirms that a foreign visitor has been lawfully admitted (or paroled) into the United States. It also includes information about the visitor’s visa status and permitted duration of stay.

Most people are issued an electronic I-94 and can replace it by simply visiting the I-94 website. Enter your information to get an instant copy. Read more for information about how to find an electronic I-94 record.

Sample I-94 record
Foreign Passport

Foreign passports are not under the purview of the United States government. In other words, you will need to contact your country's embassy here in the United States. Each country has its own rules on replacing or renewing a passport.

About CitizenPath

CitizenPath provides simple, affordable, step-by-step guidance through USCIS immigration applications. Individuals, attorneys and non-profits use the service on desktop or mobile device to prepare immigration forms accurately, avoiding costly delays. CitizenPath allows users to try the service for free and provides a 100% money-back guarantee that USCIS will approve the application or petition. We provide support for the Citizenship Document Replacement Package (Form N-565), Green Card Replacement Package (Form I-90), Employment Authorization Package (Form I-765),and several other immigration services.

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