How To Reply to A Request for Evidence
By Patricia Elizee, Esq.,
The US green card is a dream come true, but it often takes time and lots of paperwork to process. It's important to include in your initial packet all of the required documentation. If you fail to do so, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can send out a Request for Evidence (RFE) to request the missing documentation during the processing.
Here is everything you need to know about an RFE and how it affects your citizenship process.
What Is An RFE?
A Request for Evidence is simply a letter from the USCIS. The letter is a request asking you to supply additional information about your immigration application. The USCIS officer reviewing your application may need important documentation that was not included in your filing to move forward with the process.
The request is officially called the Form I-797E, which appears on the top right of the document. It explains the eligibility requirements missing from your original application and why they are important to continue with the processing. It is very important to read the RFE closely to understand what documents USCIS is requesting that you submit.
The USCIS officer can also provide examples of these required documents to guide your submission. As you can see, an RFE is no cause for worry or frustration. It is much better than an explicit rejection, so you should respond to an RFE as soon as you can. If you have any doubt as to what you should submit, consult an immigration attorney for guidance.
Why Would You Get An RFE?
There are several common reasons why you would receive a Request for Evidence, as explained below.
1. Some Initial Evidence Is Missing
The USCIS has a very detailed list of all the initial information you should submit with your application. They include:
- Passport-style photographs
- Birth certificate
- Certified police and court records, among others.
If any of these documents are missing from your application, you will receive an RFE asking you to provide them.
2. Some Document Translations Are Missing
If your green card application documents are in a foreign language, you must get certified translations of each one. Certification means that your papers must include:
- The translator's name
- His or her address
- Signature and date of completing the translation
3. Insufficient Proof of Income
If you are applying for a marriage-based green card, the sponsoring spouse must prove that they earn at least 125% above the federal poverty line. If your sponsoring spouse doesn't make enough, you can indeed find another family member to be a co-sponsor for your case.
4. Insufficient Proof of Legal Entry
Depending on your travel history, you may have to submit copies of your stamped passport or your I-94 for your green card application. This proves to the USCIS officer that you entered the US legally. If these documents are missing, you can apply for replacements from the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Of course, certain unusual cases could lead to an RFE, such cases are:
- If you previously applied for citizenship but withdrew your application, or
- Applied for a green card for a spouse you no longer live with.
These cases would require a written explanation about those particular circumstances.
What To Do If You Receive An RFE
Step 1: Read Your RFE Carefully
RFEs are usually sent out only once, so you need to understand each request on the document. Take your time with this because you want your green card application to get approved once and for all.
Step 2: Check Your Original Application Package
In some cases, the USCIS officer may have overlooked some information you have already provided. This is simply human error, so the best solution is to copy the relevant documents and submit them back.
Step 3: Gather the Required Documents
Make a list of the written documents such as explanations, translations or letters that should go with your RFE package. If there are any documents that you cannot access at the moment, offer an explanation and alternative paperwork.
USCIS officers understand that documents can go missing or get destroyed through theft, fires or natural disasters. If you have any supporting evidence of these scenarios, include them in your RFE response.
Step 4: Submit Your RFE Package Within the Deadline
The maximum response time frame for an RFE is 84 days or 12 weeks. This may be less on a case-by-case basis, but rarely will you get an extension. You have a maximum of 3 days after the deadline for your RFE package to arrive. Otherwise, your application will be denied.
Applicants living outside the US have an extra 14 days for the mailing process. Check your schedule and send your submission within these regulations, and the sooner you can do this, the better. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, USCIS is currently applying an automatic 60-day extension.
Get Help with Your RFE
A Request for Evidence is an opportunity to offer the most compelling reasons you should be granted the immigration benefit. It is crucial to respond to your RFE on time and give accurate information supporting your case.
Patricia Elizee is an immigration and family attorney. The Elizee Law Firm is located at 1110 Brickell Avenue, Suite 315, Miami, Florida 33131. Telephone: 305-371-8846.