United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is responsible for handling almost all of the immigration processes in the U.S. When you are applying for a change of status, a marriage visa, or anything similar, you are applying to USCIS.
USCIS requires a range of specific information to move the processing of your request forward. If you don’t have the necessary documentation in your initial application, you will likely receive a blue form in the mail asking for more information; this is called an RFE.
A USCIS Form I-797E, Request for Evidence (RFE), is exactly what it sounds like—a request made by USCIS for additional evidence that is necessary to determine the outcome of your application.
This does not mean that your application has been or will be denied; it simply means that the USCIS officer needs more information. As long as you comply with the stated deadlines, you should have no issue proceeding with the application process.
USCIS officers use a customizable RFE template to request the required information, which means they usually follow the same general structure. The officers check your application against a list of the required documents and issue an RFE for any appropriate documents that can be provided within the given timeframe.
One example of when an individual may receive an RFE is if their Form I-751 is denied for a lack of evidence. Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, is used for conditional residents to become lawful permanent residents (LPR). If you’re missing evidence from this application, you will receive an RFE from USCIS detailing the necessary paperwork.
An RFE will almost always have the following parts:
An RFIE, or Request for Initial Evidence, is essentially the same as an RFE but it is issued when the missing piece of evidence is something that was included on the initially required checklist. RFEs usually request additional documents to help further prove something.
The only real difference is that an RFIE will reset the timeline of benefits to your application while an RFE will pause the timeline. Both result in lost time and require an additional action before USCIS can grant benefits.
A USCIS Request for Evidence is not sent in every immigration case, as they are usually avoidable. Even though an RFE isn’t necessarily a bad sign because you can simply provide the additional information requested, it almost always means your application will take longer to be approved. Although an RFE can be sent for any missing piece of evidence, some are more commonly requested than others.
When a citizen is attempting to marry an individual who is already in the U.S. but does not have a green card, they will be required to prove that the seeking spouse came to the U.S. legally.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection uses I-94 travel history forms to keep track of people entering and leaving the country. To prove that an individual entered legally, you can provide a stamped passport or a copy of this travel history.
If you came to the U.S. after April of 2013 by boat or plane, your I-94 information was put into a database and you didn’t get a paper copy. It’s not difficult to obtain a copy of your I-94 online from the Customs and Border Patrol website.
If you came before April of 2013 on a boat or plane or crossed by land from Mexico or Canada at any point, you should’ve received a paper I-94. If you lost your paper copy and your records aren’t in the database, to receive a replacement you must file a Form I-102, Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Document.
If you have required documents that aren’t in English, you need to provide USCIS with translated copies. These translations cannot be done by you or your spouse and must be certified, meaning the translator needs to sign and confirm that their translations are accurate. The documents should also include the date, the translator’s contact information, and any other relevant personal information about them.
In many cases, individuals coming to the U.S. are required to have a sponsor that vouches for them, fills out certain forms, and has a certain income to support them. For family sponsorship and marriage visas, the sponsor must prove that they have an income of at least 125% of the federal poverty line. If the sponsor cannot prove they have sufficient income, they will be issued an RFE.
If the sponsor does not have the specified income, they can find a co-sponsor who will help support the couple in the U.S. Many times this is a family member that helps provide financial support.
Instead of denying an application that does not have all of the required initial information, USCIS will issue an RFE. There are many forms that must be completed when sponsoring an immigrant, but it’s nice to know that if you miss one, you will still have a chance to send it in. However, when you receive an RFE, you will experience delays and may not receive your final decision in the desired timeframe.
RFEs can also be sent if there is anything unclear or unusual in your application. For example, if you had already applied for a green card for an individual in the past but cancelled the application for some reason. It’s best to be as straightforward and honest as possible by including an explanation of what happened.
The best way to avoid a USCIS RFE is thorough preparation. If you pay close attention and include sufficient evidence in the initial application, USCIS will have no reason to send you an RFE. Try to stay a step ahead of USCIS by explaining strange circumstances or history ahead of time.
If you think something in your application is difficult to understand or doesn’t seem quite right, USCIS will certainly have an issue with it. Take some time to include extra information at the beginning to prevent potential delays down the road.
RFEs can come at any time until your interview is conducted or your case is approved by USCIS. It is your responsibility to be on the lookout for notification of an RFE. An RFE can cause issues with your application, but you should not let the fear of providing additional information interfere with the process.
As long as you check frequently and respond accordingly you will not experience any issues other than an increased wait time.
To properly respond to an RFE, keep the following tips in mind:
An RFE is a non-negotiable piece of evidence that USCIS needs before they can process your claim. With new USCIS trends, it’s important to adhere to policies and guidelines for the best chance of being approved. If you do not respond in a timely manner, USCIS will have no choice but to assume that you have given up on your application.
If you abandon your application, USCIS will make a determination based on its current state, which without the requested information will be a denial. If you remain in the U.S. without lawful status, USCIS can begin removal proceedings.
Even though an RFE might be fairly straightforward in what it’s asking for, the language and format can make it difficult to understand. USCIS has a streamlined system for making decisions that helps them lower processing times, but that system can sometimes leave the applicant behind.
If you receive an RFE and are not sure how to proceed with a response, contact an immigration lawyer.
The immigration attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. are prepared to help you through any step in the immigration process. Whether you need assistance with an initial claim, an RFE, or an appeal, we can guide you through the dense USCIS language and help you receive the outcome you deserve.