How to conquer this common challenge in the visa application process

No matter how much attention you pay to your immigration paperwork, there is always the chance that U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) will send you a Request for Evidence (RFE) letter. But take a deep breath, Rapid Visa is here to help you with this. It’s not a reason to panic, but merely a request for clarification or even more information.

Receiving a RFE does not mean that your application is less likely to be approved. Rather, take it as a sign that someone at USCIS is paying attention to all your effort in completing the paperwork and needs more information or documentation, or both. It’s a chance to provide even more information on why your application should be accepted. If you were going to be denied, USCIS would simply deny your application. This is part of moving your application forward.

Wait, Why Did I Get This?

USCIS issues RFEs for a number of reasons. Some of the most common are:

  • Missing Initial Information
    Applying for any type of green card involves a lot of documentation, and it’s easy to understand how some details may get overlooked. You may have received an RFE because a piece of the initial application is incomplete or not quite as detailed as the officer reviewing it would like.
  • Sponsor’s Income Information is Incomplete
    Family-based applications, especially those that are marriage-based, need to show that the sponsoring family member or spouse — someone who is a U.S. citizen or green card holder already — makes enough money. This is typically earnings of at least 125% above the federal poverty line.If the application does not include enough evidence to support financial stability, the officer reviewing the application will issue an RFE. If the sponsor does not make enough, a co-sponsor — often another family member — can agree to support the family if needed.
  • Missing Proof of Legal Entry
    If the applicant is already in the U.S., proof of a legal entry must be provided.Usually, a passport stamp is enough. Some people, particularly those who entered prior to 2013, have a paper version of the I-94 form. If you arrived after that, it’s likely your arrival was entered into a database and you did not receive a paper form. That’s okay – it is possible to get a I-94 form by following these steps. If you received an I-94 but no longer have it, use an I-102 to request another.
  • Missing Certified Translations
    Any documents that are not in English must also have a certified translated version. See “Translating Foreign Documents” on this USCIS page for more information and sample certification language.
  • Unusual Cases
    Say a person was originally involved in a separate application but then withdrew it. This RFE is that person’s chance to provide an explanation. It could be for an ex-spouse, or a change in relationship, and a written explanation will suffice.

Things to Keep In Mind

You only get one chance to respond.

Always reply to an RFE within the time frame provided in the documentation. Each RFE includes a deadline — usually 30 to 60 days and will not exceed 12 weeks. If you fail to respond in this time frame, this will most likely give USCIS a reason to deny your application.

Provide as much of the requested documentation as possible by the deadline. This is your one chance to reinforce all your other paperwork.

RFEs mean a delay in the application processing time. But if you complete everything on time, it’s merely a delay — USCIS is no more likely to deny an application for which an RFE was issued than one that had no RFE.

What to do next with your Request for Evidence

Hopefully, this has relieved some of the possible panic an RFE can bring on. The first step is to review the RFE very carefully. It will indicate the evidence submitted, the evidence requested and the deadline for a response. When additional evidence is needed, USCIS will typically suggest alternate options. Sometimes birth certificates, for example, do not meet USCIS requirements; school records and “affidavits of birth” may be submitted instead.

Another reason to read the RFE closely is that USCIS officers are only human, and you may have the information requested readily available as part of the original application.

Assemble your response, and do not procrastinate. This should include:

  • The original RFE document. Make a photocopy for yourself to keep, but your response should have the original as its first page.
  • All requested information and documentation should be sent in one package. Multiple packages are not accepted.
  • Documents included in the original application and the RFE should have explanations as to why they are being included again.
  • Explanations of why any requests for information or documentation cannot be met. Alternative proof may be included with an additional explanation.

Always keep a copy of the RFE documents for your records as well. When you mail it in, make sure to do so with a tracking option, so that can be included in the file of documents you keep.

And take a deep breath — an RFE is an opportunity to reinforce why they should accept your application, not a defense of an application that they are trying to deny.