How to Respond a USCIS Request for Evidence (RFE)?
Updated on 12/30/2020
If you were recently sent an RFE by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you are not alone. So often, applicants open their mail from the USCIS expecting a notice of approval, only to discover that they have actually received a request for evidence (RFE) letter.
In fact, the number of RFEs being issued by the USCIS has multiplied in recent years, and it has nearly doubled in some categories, such as the H-1B. In some cases, getting a request for evidence letter can be a blessing in disguise, because the communication from the USCIS will tell you exactly what you need to send to the Service to get approved for your application.
Purposes of a Request for Evidence (RFE)
The often dreaded RFE is an indication from the USCIS that there were missing documents or insufficient evidence in the original immigration application package.
The request for evidence letter from the USCIS will state each of the areas where information or evidence is lacking. The note from the Service will also provide a deadline for when the applicant should supply the USCIS with both a response and further evidence.
Common reasons that people get an RFE
There are many and varied reasons that applicants will get an RFE letter from the USCIS. The justification may be as simple as the fact that a submitted translated document did not include a certificate of translation.
Other RFEs, such as those in the category of business immigration or working visa, may state that the current evidence supplied by the professional did not show that they met each and every criterion required for the employment-based visa. Other USCIS rationales for issuing an RFE include the following:
- Incorrect or unreadable documents
- Missing or incomplete forms
- Insufficient showing of income of a sponsor
- Missing certain document regarding applicant’s immigration status
At times, a document may be translated in such a way that the USCIS adjudicator cannot figure out what it is. For example, if an applicant’s birth certificate is translated as “identity document,” the USCIS adjudicator may overlook it and send an RFE asking for a certificate of birth.
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What to do if you received an RFE?
There is no reason to panic if you or a loved one gets a request for evidence letter in the mail. The first step is to remain calm and read the letter in full. Next, make a note of the deadline for responding to the RFE.
Generally, the RFE letter will also state what evidence the USCIS has already received, and it may include quotations from the original petition letter. Then the request for evidence letter will state what evidence is unclear or is missing. Therefore, it is important to make a list of all of the items that the USCIS still needs. Then, start gathering this evidence.
There are instances where an applicant already did send the evidence that the USCIS says is missing. In such cases, the applicant should enclose a copy of the evidence as requested and a letter as well to tell them that the evidence was included with the original application.
Complicated terms in a Request for Evidence letter
It can sometimes feel intimidating to read an RFE letter from the USCIS. The language is often confusing, and there is frequently a lot of legalese.
In many instances, the USCIS adjudicator who is writing the RFE letter is copying and pasting language from an official template. Therefore, an experienced immigration attorney would likely be familiar with the verbiage in such letters.
Practiced immigration attorneys have probably seen those same templated paragraphs from the USCIS many times before. Therefore, it is generally prudent to consult with a skilled immigration lawyer on the request for evidence letter, so that they can explain the meanings of the complicated terms.
What to enclose in an RFE response package?
When putting together a response to an RFE, as stated above, it can be wise to make a list of missing evidence or portions that need to be corrected, and then start compiling the items. A strong answer to the USCIS should include a copy of the original RFE letter, so that the adjudicator is aware of the status of the application.
Additionally, the RFE response should include a cover letter. The reply should point out any evidence that the USCIS adjudicator failed to notice in the original application package. It should then itemize and explain each piece of new evidence that is being enclosed with the RFE response package.
There is no need to include an additional filing fee with an RFE response, as the petitioner should have included that with the original application.
RFE deadlines during COVID-19
Generally, the timeline to respond a RFE is 30 to 87 days from the issuance date of the RFE; the specific deadline is indicated in the RFE letter.
During these strange times amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the USCIS has put some flexible measures in place. Specifically, the USCIS states that if you receive an RFE dated between March 1, 2020 and January 1, 2021 (inclusive), you have an extra 60 calendar days after the response date set forth in the RFE in which to comply. The USCIS will not make a decision on your case during those extra 60 days.
Therefore, it is important to either check the USCIS website periodically or ask well-informed immigration counsel for any new updates from the Service. The USCIS now has a specialized webpage dedicated to immigration news relating to COVID-19.
NOID vs. RFE
If you had to choose between getting a NOID letter or an RFE letter, most adept immigration lawyers would tell you to pick the request for evidence. A NOID is a notice of intent to deny issued by USCIS.
Therefore, a NOID brings an applicant a lot closer to the denial of their petition than an RFE. Hence, it is much more serious. A request for evidence merely expresses the need for you to provide further supporting documents to bolster your application. Nevertheless, failure to respond an RFE will also result a denial to your application by the USCIS.
With both the NOID and the RFE, it is generally not prudent to respond to the USCIS on your own. It is better to at least show the letter to competent counsel, so that they can explain it to you.
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