For most green card applications, an applicant will ordinarily be required to submit his/his birth certificate. Unfortunately, it is very common for older individuals to not have birth certificates. We see this especially with our Indian clients who were born during times when no official register of births was maintained. In some cases, some applicants may have school leaving certificates or other documents bearing the birth date and parentage information. However, it is important to understand that school leaving certificates, baptismal certificates and the like are not considered primary evidence. In short, one cannot submit a leaving certificate or other document indicating the birth information in lieu of a birth certificate merely because obtaining the birth certificate is inconvenient. If there is a birth certificate, USCIS will expect to see one. The aforementioned alternative documentation is deemed secondary evidence and will not be considered unless a birth certificate is truly unavailable. Should this be the case, an applicant will ordinarily have to submit an official no birth registration letter from their government confirming this. If a no birth registration letter has been obtained, then one may start assembling the alternative secondary evidence of birth. As mentioned previously, this may come in the form of religious records, school records, or even census records. Should none of these records be available, then one may submit at least two affidavits obtained from two different people who have personal knowledge of the birth and parentage of the applicant. While the affiants do not need to be US Citizens, they must nevertheless identify themselves, explain how they know the fact at issue, and certify that the statements are truthful.
In this climate, particularly, it is critical to be cognizant of the distinction between primary and secondary evidence given the potential consequences. If primary evidence is not initially submitted, one may receive a Request for Evidence which is likely to delay adjudication of the case. However, in light of USCIS’s new policy, a Request for Evidence is not always a given, and USCIS can conceivably deny a case without issuing one if it deems the evidence to be insufficient. Not only would this signify more delay but also incur additional expenses, as the applications would have to be refiled.