May 11, 2022

Request for Evidence (RFE): What You Need to Know

You applied for an Immigration benefit. You filled out forms, included documents, and sent it out to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. You did your best to make sure you submitted all possible information and filled out all forms correctly. For you, this application includes not only your biographic information but your dreams, your aspirations, the hope of reuniting with your loved ones, a better career opportunity, and more. You eagerly waited for a favorable decision, but instead- you received a letter titled "Request for Evidence" or "RFE" for short. This was not what you expected! Did you make a mistake? What "Evidence" are they talking about? Does immigration want to deny your application? 

What is Request for Evidence (RFE)?

An applicant for an immigration benefit has the burden of proving his/her eligibility for this benefit. Receiving an RFE means that USCIS believes that you have not met that burden, meaning you have not submitted sufficient information or documents for USCIS to approve your application. In other words, an RFE implies that you are going to have to do more work to better support your application. However, in many cases, officers "thinking" they cannot adjudicate a case based on the evidence already submitted does not mean they are necessarily correct.

Why Do People Get an RFE?

The reasons why people get an RFE can vary. A Request for evidence can be issued for a minor mistake in the filing that can be easily "fixed" (for example- you forgot to include one of the necessary documents). In other cases, a Request for evidence can challenge your fundamental eligibility to the benefit you are requesting- and can require that you provide a legal and/or factual analysis that supports your claim. In most cases, USCIS issues the RFE to give you an opportunity to supplement the application with the necessary documentation/legal arguments.

Below are some of the common reasons why you may get an RFE from USCIS:

Related: Immigration Interview Questions You Need to Know

Missing Evidence

a man filling in documentation

It is important that you provide all relevant documentation required for your petition. USCIS provides a list of required and mandatory evidence on its website. It is crucial to check the USCIS website before every submission since they often change the requirements. If you fail to include one of the required documents- USCIS can issue an RFE, reject or even deny your case!

Lack of Income

Lack of income can be a significant factor in deciding cases. For example- In family-based petitions, USCIS requires that the U.S. citizen/Green card holder petitioner submit an Affidavit of Support (form I-864). Failing to provide enough documentation to prove sufficient income is a cause of concern. It is advisable that you provide information related to all the assets and all sources of income if you deem that your primary source of income is not enough to cover a family's expenses. You can also get another family member to co-sponsor if needed.

Proof of Legal Entry

If the spouse seeking a green card is already within the United States, you must prove that he or she entered the United States legally.

You may provide a stamped passport or a copy of your I-94 Travel history, the form that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) uses to track arrivals and departures.

You can also provide reasons for travel to the U.S., which could be studied, for a vacation or business meeting. You can also show the proof of activities you undertook while you stay in the U.S. and prove to the department that you have adhered to all policies and laws in relation to your stay in the U.S.

Related: What are the Eligibility Criteria for U.S. Citizenship?

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Missing Document Translation

All the evidence and documents that you present to USCIS must be in English. If any of your documents are in a language other than English, you must provide a translation made by someone other than you or your spouse. These translations have to be certified, which means that the translator must certify in writing that he or she has translated the document accurately. The certification should include the translator's name, address, and signature, as well as the date the translation was completed. This is very important as providing the translations in a timely manner ensures that USCIS doesn't have to wait to understand the content unnecessarily.  

Abnormal Cases

Sometimes certain things need to be explained in detail. It is advisable that you proactively provide additional explanations or evidence to preempt questions from USCIS. For example, suppose you previously applied for a green card for someone else (an ex-spouse) but ended up withdrawing your green card application. In that case, you should include a written explanation of that situation. Being proactive and providing additional details will help put your case in a better and more organized way to USCIS, and there will be more reasons for them to adjudicate your submission favorably. 

Related: Immigration FAQ

What to do if you receive an RFE?

woman reading mail

RFEs should be read carefully and submitted promptly before the deadline—usually between 30 to 90 days—as an applicant will only have one chance to respond. Additionally, because a nonresponse is a near guarantee that the application or petition will be denied, an applicant must comply with all requests for information as thoroughly as possible in a single response. Responses to an RFE have a higher chance of approval when they are better organized. Applicants should ensure that the information they provide is consistent, easy to locate, and not lacking in substance. 

Step by Step Process of Responding to an RFE

As we stated, it’s imperative that you respond to an RFE to avoid denial of your application. Once you receive your notice, make sure that you don’t panic. Instead, follow these steps to make sure that you respond to the notice the right way.

Make a copy of the Notice

First, make a copy of the notice to keep for your records. Make sure that you don’t send the copied notice when you’re submitting your response. Instead, fill out the blue letter you receive from USCIS and send that back so your case can be dealt with accordingly.

Gather the Necessary Evidence

This is the most crucial part of responding to an RFE. Your notice will tell you the information that your application is missing. Sometimes it could be something as small as a passport photo or a missing signature in a particular section.

Other times you may be asked to resubmit documents because the originals in your application are not recognized in the U.S. So, you’ll need to find the U.S. equivalent of your country’s documents and submit them with your application.

Either way, use the RFE to review your application. You can make your case stronger by adding additional evidence that you’re eligible for immigration permission. The more evidence you have, the better chance your application has.

Put Your Packet Together

Once you have all your evidence, it’s time to put your packet together. Make sure that you place the evidence in the order that USCIS lists. Start with the original copy of the RFE notice, then a cover letter stating everything that’s in your application packet.

It makes it easier for the reviewing officer to handle your case and prevents any documents from being misplaced, which could lead to further delays on your application.

Mail the Response

Once you put your packet together, it’s time to mail it off to USCIS. Ensure that you send your documents to the address listed in the RFE notice and not an address that you previously sent the documents to. Also, make sure to keep a copy of your submission and proof of mailing for your records- this is very important! 

It’s also a good idea to send your application well in advance of the RFE deadline. If your application is received after the deadline, it can possibly get denied even though you sent it before.

When you decide to mail your packet, make sure that you choose a service that has tracking so you’ll have proof of when you sent it. That way, you can show USCIS that you complied with the deadline in the event of any delays.

What To Do if Your RFE is Delaying your Application

a pensive woman waiting for her application

Following your adjustment of status application, you can usually apply for an Advance Parole, often known as a "travel document," an Employment Authorization Document, or a "work permit."

You will be permitted to work in the United States while you wait for your green card by applying for them.

Even if you are eligible for advance parole, keep in mind that you should consult with an attorney before leaving the United States. You shouldn't travel just because you can.

A delay is sure to happen if, after receiving your EAD, the USCIS sends you an RFIE on I-485 or an RFE on I-864. Because the RFIE interrupts and resets the EAD clock, this occurs.

Receiving an RFE, on the other hand, does not automatically restart the processing of your application. Instead, the entire procedure is halted until you cooperate.

RFEs are a common reason for USCIS's delay in making a final decision on an applicant's case. In a case like this, the applicant will need to respond to their RFE within 30 to 90 days. 

The final decision will be made after USCIS reviews your response and the documents they have requested.

Have You Had An RFE/RFIE For A Long Time?

Whether you receive an RFE or an RFIE, one thing is sure: your application will be put on hold if you don't comply, and your application may even be refused.

While USCIS will occasionally tell you the precise documents you must provide, sometimes their statements may be confusing, and they can lead you in the opposite direction.

If you received a request for information (RFI) or a request for information (RFE), you will require professional assistance - the assistance provided by Brudner Law Immigration Law Firm is of the highest quality. 

Whether RFEs and RFIEs are intended to deter you from pursuing citizenship, our attorneys will fight for you.

Difference Between RFE and Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID)

Sometimes inside of an RFE, you’ll receive a NOID from immigration services. A NOID, or Notice of Intent to Deny, is given to you if an immigration officer rejects your application because the evidence you provided does not make you eligible for the permission you’re applying for.

Although a NOID isn’t an official denial of you’re application, you must respond to it. You’ll only have a particular amount of time to give sufficient evidence to support your application. If you don’t reply, you’ll receive a Notice of Action, which is a denial of your application.

Closing Remarks

shaking hands

Many people have the misconception that applying for an immigration benefit is just a matter of "filling out forms" when, in fact, it involves much more than that! An RFE can be easily avoided if you can provide all sufficient information in the first go.  

At Brudner law we are committed to providing excellent service, we have a specialized legal team with years of experience handling and preparing cases for our clients. We have a significant understanding of the documentation required for immigration applications. A good immigration lawyer on your side can make a substantial difference in the resolution of your case! As explained above, it is not necessarily your fault if you receive an RFE and there could be possible errors. We are apt at handling such issues, and we will make sure that the only thing you need to worry about in an immigration process is planning your future in the U.S. Leave the Immigration matters with USCIS to us!

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