November 30th, 2009 by Eric J. Ramos
Tips when Filing USCIS Immigration Forms
Filing an application or petition with USCIS can seem like an overwhelming task. Applicants are well advised to do their homework ahead of time. Avoiding common mistakes and oversights can save a lot of time and anxiety while the petition or application is pending with USCIS.
You can find your USCIS Form here.
1.) Most immigration forms come with detailed instructions. It is important to follow the USCIS form’s instructions carefully so that you avoid delay or rejection of your application. Per the USCIS, you should adhere to the following guidelines when filling out your petition or application:
- Use the most current edition of the immigration form. The USCIS updates their immigration forms often. Respond to all the relevant questions and provide information in the answer blanks and check boxes.
- If you are manually filling out the USCIS form, print or type your information using black ink only. Do NOT “highlight” or “background shade” the entries on your USCIS forms.
- Make sure that you sign the USCIS form.
- Include the correct fee specified in the USCIS form instructions. You should attach the fee or fee waiver by paper clip or staple in the upper left corner of the completed form application or petition.
- Provide all requested documentation and evidence with the USCIS form.
- Follow the instructions on the notice you receive for biometrics/fingerprinting. The date, time, and location of your appointment will be sent to you by mail. Take all receipt notices and any other relevant documentation with you to your appointment.
2.) Per USCIS, take the following steps to avoid delays in processing your immigration form.
- Do NOT send original passports or other valuable personal documents when filing your USCIS forms because if they get lost, replacing them is going to be very laborious. Make sure that copies of original passports or personal documents are made on standard white letter-sized paper (8.5” x 11”)
- Use paperclips when attaching supporting personal documents to the USCIS forms.
- If a payment is submitted, attach it to the first primary immigration form by paper clip or staple, and make sure that your name is indicated on the payment document (i.e., in the memo field of the check). IMPORTANT: If more than one application is filed using a single check, and any of the immigration forms are found to be improperly filed, ALL forms will be rejected. Therefore, make certain that all the relevant questions are answered.
- Make checks or money orders payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.” If you live in Guam and filing your immigration form there, make checks or money orders payable to “Treasurer, Guam.” If you live in U.S. Virgin Islands and filing your immigration form there, make checks or money orders payable to “Commissioner of Finance of the Virgin Islands.”
- Always use the same name and the same version of the name on all USCIS forms that pertain to the same person.
- In the address section of the immigration form, the “care of” line is for names only, such as your name, firm/organization, or a building. Do not put a street address in the “care of” section.
- “Place of Birth” on a USCIS form always means country of birth.
- Include the date of birth on all immigration forms in the designated field in MM/DD/YYYY format.
3.) As mentioned before, it is important to include the correct fee with your completed USCIS form.
The USCIS will accept the payment of fees via:
- Money order.
- Cashier’s check.
- Personal check.
Please note that cash is NOT accepted.
If you pay your filing fee using a personal check you should be sure that you have sufficient funds in your account to cover payment. After two unsuccessful attempts to obtain payment from your bank, the USCIS will turn the check over to Debt Management for collection. Obviously, this will delay the processing of your immigration form.
4.) Read the I-797 Receipt Notice carefully. Wait the amount of time listed before inquiring on the status of your case. The processing time is different for each immigration form.
5.) All foreign language documents included with you USCIS forms must be accompanied by a corresponding English translation. The English translation must be certified by a competent translator, and he or she must verify in writing that “the translation is true and accurate to the best of the translator’s abilities.”
These guidelines apply to individual applicant packages as well as family packages. Family packages should be sent together, if possible. Every effort will be made to schedule these cases together for interview. However, if a Request for Evidence (RFE) is necessary for one family member, the entire family package will be held together until the RFE response is received.
Why would a “Request for Evidence” be necessary?
The USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) if it finds that it needs additional information to complete processing of an USCIS form. Some common reasons for issuing a Request for Evidence are:
- The petitioner or co-sponsor has failed to file an Affidavit of Support in connection with an Application to Adjust Status to Permanent Resident.
- You submitted an incomplete USCIS Form I-693 Medical Exam or Supplement, or have failed to submit a Medical Exam in connection with an Application to Adjust Status to Permanent Resident.
- You failed to include with your foreign-language marriage or birth certificate and accompanying, certified translation.
- You failed to submit evidence that establishes that you are qualified for the immigration benefit.
- You failed to submit evidence that you entered the country legally and/or have maintained legal status.
How to avoid getting a Request for Evidence?
All initial evidence should be submitted at the time of filing. Prepare your immigration form properly and carefully. Be complete when submitting supporting documentation. Documentation should be well organized and VERY detailed, so as to avoid any red flags. Remember, you will not get a RFE for forgetting to include your fee payment. The RFE results from incomplete, inconsistent and/or unclear documentation. Therefore, be thorough if you want to avoid delay in the processing of your immigration form.
The Consequences of Getting a Request for Evidence
Failure to respond to a RFE in a timely manner could result in the delay and/or denial of your USCIS form. For example, a request may be made to: provide a W-2 form of your sponsor; provide extra documentation of your qualifications for an EB1-Extraordinary Ability immigration visa; provide clarification why the place of birth on your passport is different from that on your Birth Certificate. These are just some of the examples of RFEs. They vary in complexity and therefore in the amount of time required to assemble the proper response. The time allotted for your response will be provided when you receive the RFE.
But remember that in addition to delaying the above application, processing of ancillary benefit immigration forms (such as applications for employment authorization or travel permission) will also be delayed if a Request for Evidence is issued in connection with your primary application.
What to do if you get a Request for Evidence
You should submit the response to the RFE (with the original request) as quickly as possible to the office issuing the request. Do NOT send the response to the Chicago Lockbox.
Always return the entire original request for evidence (color copy) with your complete response to the RFE. DO NOT mail portions of the original RFE separately. Make a photocopy of the original request for evidence for your files. Returning the original RFE will make the response easier to identify in the incoming mail and get the response filed with the file as quickly as possible so that the processing of the case can continue.
Following the guidelines provided in this article will help you submit a complete and accurate USCIS form. But remember, if you need additional help, Immigration Direct is your online U.S. Immigration source. Our easy-to use, step-by-step software will guide you through the complicated application process from start to finish.