USCIS and the US Department of State often require original documents or certified copies of certain documents for immigration processing. The specific documents you need depend on what you are applying for and where. Many clients ask what it means to have a certified copy.
The civil registrar or similar agency usually keeps the "original" document (birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc) on file. When you request your birth certificate from the civil registrar, for example, they will give you a certified copy of the birth certificate. That means that the agency has certified that it is a true and accurate copy of the original. The certified copy may have a seal or raised stamp on the document, to show that it is a certified copy.
A lot of times when a person talks about an "original" birth certificate, they are really talking about the certified copy that they obtained from the civil registrar, or similar record-keeper.
Most of the time it is not required to send the original documents to USCIS. Instead, if there is an interview, you would take the original or certified copies of things like the birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc, to the interview with USCIS.
Likewise, when we file a petition that will go to the National Visa Center and eventually the consulate, we only submit photocopies of the documents to USCIS. However, the consulate often requires the original document or certified copy. Therefore, you may need to send your certified copies to your family member overseas for the consular interview.
If you have questions about which documents are required for your immigration process, you must consult with a qualified immigration professional. The above information is for educational purposes only, and is not legal advice.
If you need help navigating the immigration process with confidence, please contact us today to get the process underway! We are immigration lawyers in Richmond, VA but we serve clients throughout the US and around the world. You can call us at 804-396-3412 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!