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Completing Your Employment History on a Green Card Application

How to provide an accurate record of your current and previous jobs

What employment history is required for a green card application?

When you apply for a green card through marriage or a family member, the U.S. government will want to know where you’ve worked for the past five years. If you’re applying from abroad, that period generally expands to the past 10 years.

You should have no trouble completing this section of your immigration forms if you’ve worked in only one or two places during those time frames. But what if you’ve had multiple employers and struggle to recall every detail?

Don’t worry! In this guide, we’ll review the level of detail that the U.S. government generally expects you to provide about your current and previous employment. We’ll also share some helpful tips for piecing together the missing details.

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Employment History Requirements

Both the family member seeking a green card and sponsoring family member (the U.S. citizen or green card holder) must provide their employment history on the appropriate immigration form.


Make sure you list your most recent place of employment first and work backwards from there.

The following table lists the forms where family members must enter their current and previous jobs:

Which form?Whose employment history?For which years?
Family Sponsorship Form (I-130)Sponsoring family member (U.S. citizen or green card holder)Past 5 years
Supplemental Information Form (I-130A)Green card applicant living abroad or in the U.S.Past 5 years
Green Card Application
Green card applicant living in the U.S.Past 5 years
Online Green Card Application (DS-260)Green card applicant living abroadPast 10 years*

*Please note that if you are applying from abroad and you are an Afghan national, you will be asked to provide your employment history from 1995 until now. Iraqi nationals living abroad must provide all of their employment history until now.

What information do I need to provide for each employer?

On the I-130, I-130A, and I-485 forms: You will provide the following details for each employer — whether abroad or in the United States — during the past five years:

  • Employer’s name
  • Employer’s address (where you actually work or report to or previously did)
  • Your position or title
  • Exact start and end dates (month/day/year)

There are some important peculiarities to note about these forms: On both the I-130 and I-130A, the U.S. government will assume that you are currently employed, so the end date for your first listed employer will be pre-filled with “PRESENT.” You may not change or delete this answer, but you may enter an alternative type of employer if you are not currently working (see “Special Situations” section below). The I-485, however, allows you to enter an end date for the first listed employer, which need not be your current employer, only your most recent.

For the relative seeking a green card, the I-130A also asks for your last job outside the United States if this was not listed as employment from the past five years. (In other words, this could be a job held over five years ago.) If you don’t list any work abroad from the past five years or longer, you must explain at the end of the form why you never worked outside the United States.

On the DS-260 form: This online form is only for relatives applying for a green card from abroad, and it’s set up differently from the other three forms discussed above. If you’re the family member seeking a green card, you’ll start by providing the following details about each current job (or jobs, if more than one) — whether abroad or in the United States:

  • Your primary occupation (you must specify your job if it is not among the choices in the drop-down list)
  • Employer’s name
  • Employer’s address (where you actually work or report to or previously did)

For each previous job you held during the past 10 years — whether abroad or in the United States — you must also provide:

  • Employer’s phone number
  • Your job title
  • Supervisor’s name
  • Exact start and end dates (month/day/year)

Additionally, you must disclose:

  • What type of employment you intend to seek once in the United States
  • Whether you previously served in the military of any country

If you answer yes to serving in the military, you must also provide the following information:

  • Country or region where you served
  • Branch of service
  • Your rank or position
  • Your military specialty
  • Exact start and end dates of your service

Employment history, address history, and immigration history

It’s important to make sure the employment history aligns with the address history and immigration history to prevent USCIS asking for more information about why the histories don’t match, which could delay an application.

If the histories don’t match up for a good reason (for instance, the applicant worked remotely or they listed the headquarters address for their company rather than the physical office address), then they can explain why on the form or in the addendum.

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Special Situations

Not everyone will have straightforward answers to the “Employment History” section of their immigration forms. Let’s discuss how to properly address unusual scenarios:

Does being a student or an intern count as employment?

Yes, full-time student enrollment and unpaid internships are considered types of employment for green card application purposes.

On forms I-130, I-130A, and I-485, you would simply write “Student” or “Unpaid Intern” — whichever is applicable to you — in the space for your job title or occupation. You would then write the name of your school or the place where you intern as the name of your employer. Include the school’s or employer’s address and dates of attendance or employment, as well.

On the DS-260, you would select “STUDENT” from the drop-down list of primary occupations and provide your school’s name and address. If you are an unpaid intern, you would select “OTHER” from the drop-down list of primary occupations, specify your job, and enter your employer’s address. You will not be asked for the dates of your attendance or internship if these are your current occupations.

Does part-time work count as employment?

Yes, part-time work is considered a type of employment for green card application purposes. The U.S. government generally requires you to include any periods of paid employment, whether part- or full-time, including paid internships. You would complete the “Employment History” section of your immigration forms the same way that a full-time employee would (see “Employment History Requirements” section above).

What if I’m unemployed, retired, or a homemaker?

If you are unemployed, retired, or a homemaker (or stay-at-home parent), or were at any time during the past five years, you would simply write “Unemployed,” “Retired,” or “Homemaker” — whichever is applicable to you — where you would enter the name of an employer on forms I-130, I-130A, and I-485.

On the DS-260, you would select “NOT EMPLOYED,” “RETIRED,” or “HOMEMAKER” — whichever is applicable to you — from the drop-down list of primary occupations if you were one of these at any point in the past 10 years. If you select “NOT EMPLOYED,” you must also explain why you do not work.

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Imperfect Employment History

The U.S. government expects you to provide an accurate employment history — ideally with exact start and end dates. But you’re not alone if you can’t remember some dates or previous employers.

If you end up with one or two gaps in your employment history or inexact dates, you should be prepared to explain these, but your application most likely won’t be denied for those reasons. The U.S. government is generally known to be flexible about this part of the green card application. After all, many people don’t maintain perfect records of their employment history.

But you should still do your best to answer this section of your immigration forms completely and accurately. On every form you submit, you’ll sign a sworn statement attesting to the truthfulness of the information you provided. (Intentionally lying to the U.S. government is a criminal offense.) The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also has the right to verify the information you provide by means including unannounced visits to your places of employment before or even after it has made a decision on your application. So treat this part of the application with the care and diligence it deserves.

If you can’t remember the exact start and end dates you worked at a particular job, you can provide approximate dates and explain on the form why exact dates were not available. If you end up with a gap between the dates, however, it’s best to eliminate these (see below for tips).

Otherwise, if you have unexplained gaps or inexact dates, you can expect one of the following three outcomes from the U.S. government:

  1. They may accept your employment history without question.
  2. They may ask you to amend your application with a more complete employment history via an official request for evidence, or RFE (relatively rare).
  3. They may ask about the gaps during your green card interview.

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Tips for Remembering Old Jobs

If you can’t recall previous jobs and the dates when you worked at each one, you’re not alone. But with a little diligence, you may find that you can reconstruct your full work history. Try one of these methods to find the information you need:

Check your résumé or CV: These are the most obvious places to look if you’ve been in the job market in the past five or 10 years. Potential employers often require your résumé or curriculum vitae (CV) when evaluating your job application. These documents traditionally list each position, the companies you worked for, and the dates you worked at each.

Request an Employment Verification Letter: This formal document from your employer provides evidence that you work for them or previously did. It should contain the name and address of your employer, start date, end date (if you no longer work there), position, and annual salary.

Look at your income tax returns: Your federal income tax return will not only be required when you submit your financial support form (I-864) to the U.S. government, but it can also be useful for finding the names and addresses of previous employers during particular filing years. That information is usually duplicated from tax forms, such as a W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement) or 1099-MISC (Miscellaneous Income Statement), provided by employers or clients. You can also request copies of your prior-year tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Request an earnings record: The Social Security Administration (SSA) keeps track of U.S. employees’ work histories. If you’ve worked in the United States, you can fill out a Request for Social Security Earnings Information form to get details — including your employers’ names and addresses, the dates you worked for each, and your earnings — for all the jobs you’ve held during the years you specify. Bear in mind, however, that the SSA charges a $115 fee for the information, and they require 120 days to process the request.

Visit your State Unemployment Office: If you worked for an employer based in your state and have applied for unemployment benefits, you can request your work history from your state unemployment agency. The record typically only goes back up to 18 months but is usually provided free of charge.

Search other old records: If you live abroad, or previously did, you may not have filed a U.S. tax return or have other official records listing former employers. In this situation, try looking through old documents, such as employment contracts and old pay stubs.

Request an employment data report: Not many people know that certain services compile employment data on individuals, which is then sold to organizations that are interested in that information. But you can access that data, too. You can request such a report for free from The Work Number, a subsidiary of credit bureau Equifax that many employers use to screen job applicants.

Check your free credit report: Go to, a government-endorsed website, and access your free credit report (provided by each of the three major credit bureaus once per year). Each credit report may contain a list of current and/or past employers if you previously provided that information on a credit application, which the lender then reported to the credit bureaus. If you didn’t, your credit reports most likely won’t show any employment details. But the reports are free, so you have nothing to lose if you just want to check.

Have a question about your employment history? Boundless has helped more than 100,000 people with their immigration plans. We’ll be your visa planning partner from beginning to end. Get started today!

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