USCIS Request for Evidence (RFE)

USCIS Request for Evidence (RFE)

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is responsible for handling almost all of the immigration processes in the U.S. When you are applying for a change of status, a marriage visa, or anything similar, you are applying to USCIS.

USCIS requires a range of specific information to move the processing of your request forward. If you don’t have the necessary documentation in your initial application, you will likely receive a blue form in the mail asking for more information; this is called an RFE.

RFE Meaning

A USCIS Form I-797E, Request for Evidence (RFE), is exactly what it sounds like—a request made by USCIS for additional evidence that is necessary to determine the outcome of your application.

This does not mean that your application has been or will be denied; it simply means that the USCIS officer needs more information. As long as you comply with the stated deadlines, you should have no issue proceeding with the application process.

USCIS officers use a customizable RFE template to request the required information, which means they usually follow the same general structure. The officers check your application against a list of the required documents and issue an RFE for any appropriate documents that can be provided within the given timeframe.

One example of when an individual may receive an RFE is if their Form I-751 is denied for a lack of evidence. Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, is used for conditional residents to become lawful permanent residents (LPR). If you’re missing evidence from this application, you will receive an RFE from USCIS detailing the necessary paperwork.

What Information Is Included in an RFE?

An RFE will almost always have the following parts:

  • Application Summary The introductory paragraph of the RFE will focus on the original application. This will include information like the date USCIS received it, the office that’s processing it, and the type of application.
  • Legal Reference The RFE will also quote relevant parts of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Code of Federal Regulations, or any other applicable law. This allows USCIS to cite the specific eligibility requirements that the applicant did not fulfill.
  • Evidence Submitted In this section, USCIS will outline all of the different documents and evidence you have submitted for your case. It’s beneficial to read over this list to make sure that everything you turned in is accounted for. If they did not receive something that you tried to turn in, that could be the reason for your RFE. It’s also helpful to take note of anything missing that might be helpful if it were submitted as a part of your RFE.
  • Evidence Required This is the important part of the RFE that details the documents which USCIS requires to make decisions on your application. USCIS will outline which requirements have not been fulfilled and how you may be able to fulfill them. This is usually a pretty long section because along with providing a solution, it also offers a multitude of alternative suggestions which may also help prove your case.
  • Due Date At the end of an RFE, USCIS will include the date by which an applicant must gather and submit all required evidence. The final section will also outline the ramifications of not responding to the RFE in a timely manner; the decision will be made only on the documents that have already been turned in, likely resulting in a denial of the application.

What Is an RFIE?

An RFIE, or Request for Initial Evidence, is essentially the same as an RFE but it is issued when the missing piece of evidence is something that was included on the initially required checklist. RFEs usually request additional documents to help further prove something.

The only real difference is that an RFIE will reset the timeline of benefits to your application while an RFE will pause the timeline. Both result in lost time and require an additional action before USCIS can grant benefits.

Common Reasons for an RFE

A USCIS Request for Evidence is not sent in every immigration case, as they are usually avoidable. Even though an RFE isn’t necessarily a bad sign because you can simply provide the additional information requested, it almost always means your application will take longer to be approved. Although an RFE can be sent for any missing piece of evidence, some are more commonly requested than others.

Missing Legal Entry Proof

When a citizen is attempting to marry an individual who is already in the U.S. but does not have a green card, they will be required to prove that the seeking spouse came to the U.S. legally.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection uses I-94 travel history forms to keep track of people entering and leaving the country. To prove that an individual entered legally, you can provide a stamped passport or a copy of this travel history.

If you came to the U.S. after April of 2013 by boat or plane, your I-94 information was put into a database and you didn’t get a paper copy. It’s not difficult to obtain a copy of your I-94 online from the Customs and Border Patrol website.

If you came before April of 2013 on a boat or plane or crossed by land from Mexico or Canada at any point, you should’ve received a paper I-94. If you lost your paper copy and your records aren’t in the database, to receive a replacement you must file a Form I-102, Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Document.

Missing Translations of Documents

If you have required documents that aren’t in English, you need to provide USCIS with translated copies. These translations cannot be done by you or your spouse and must be certified, meaning the translator needs to sign and confirm that their translations are accurate. The documents should also include the date, the translator’s contact information, and any other relevant personal information about them.

Sponsoring Citizen Lacks Sufficient Income

In many cases, individuals coming to the U.S. are required to have a sponsor that vouches for them, fills out certain forms, and has a certain income to support them. For family sponsorship and marriage visas, the sponsor must prove that they have an income of at least 125% of the federal poverty line. If the sponsor cannot prove they have sufficient income, they will be issued an RFE.

If the sponsor does not have the specified income, they can find a co-sponsor who will help support the couple in the U.S. Many times this is a family member that helps provide financial support.

Initial Evidence Missing

Instead of denying an application that does not have all of the required initial information, USCIS will issue an RFE. There are many forms that must be completed when sponsoring an immigrant, but it’s nice to know that if you miss one, you will still have a chance to send it in. However, when you receive an RFE, you will experience delays and may not receive your final decision in the desired timeframe.

Unnatural Cases

RFEs can also be sent if there is anything unclear or unusual in your application. For example, if you had already applied for a green card for an individual in the past but cancelled the application for some reason. It’s best to be as straightforward and honest as possible by including an explanation of what happened.

How to Prevent an RFE

The best way to avoid a USCIS RFE is thorough preparation. If you pay close attention and include sufficient evidence in the initial application, USCIS will have no reason to send you an RFE. Try to stay a step ahead of USCIS by explaining strange circumstances or history ahead of time.

If you think something in your application is difficult to understand or doesn’t seem quite right, USCIS will certainly have an issue with it. Take some time to include extra information at the beginning to prevent potential delays down the road.

How to Respond to an RFE

RFEs can come at any time until your interview is conducted or your case is approved by USCIS. It is your responsibility to be on the lookout for notification of an RFE. An RFE can cause issues with your application, but you should not let the fear of providing additional information interfere with the process.

As long as you check frequently and respond accordingly you will not experience any issues other than an increased wait time.

To properly respond to an RFE, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Read the request thoroughly before responding. If you’re not sure what exactly USCIS wants from you, ask for assistance. If you miss anything or submit the wrong evidence, you will only have to wait longer.
  • Submit one comprehensive response. Although they may ask for clarification on multiple things, USCIS typically only issues a single RFE. You should be able to satisfy each part of the request in one response. Answer all the questions clearly and provide all necessary documents for the best chance of approval.
  • Keep your response organized. Include all of the information, but make sure it’s not too complex for USCIS to find the answer they need. Include the RFE on the front of your response and include a table of contents if you think it may be difficult to navigate.
  • DO NOT MISS THE DEADLINES. USCIS is always busy with applications, so if they provide you with a due date, adhere to it. Failure to comply with deadlines is an easy way to be denied, even if you deserve an approval. If at any point throughout the process of responding to an RFE you feel you’re doing something wrong or you do not believe USCIS has provided a clear explanation of what they want, reach out to an experienced immigration attorney for assistance.

Failure to Respond to an RFE

An RFE is a non-negotiable piece of evidence that USCIS needs before they can process your claim. With new USCIS trends, it’s important to adhere to policies and guidelines for the best chance of being approved. If you do not respond in a timely manner, USCIS will have no choice but to assume that you have given up on your application.

If you abandon your application, USCIS will make a determination based on its current state, which without the requested information will be a denial. If you remain in the U.S. without lawful status, USCIS can begin removal proceedings.

Contact Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. for RFE Assistance

Even though an RFE might be fairly straightforward in what it’s asking for, the language and format can make it difficult to understand. USCIS has a streamlined system for making decisions that helps them lower processing times, but that system can sometimes leave the applicant behind.

If you receive an RFE and are not sure how to proceed with a response, contact an immigration lawyer.

The immigration attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. are prepared to help you through any step in the immigration process. Whether you need assistance with an initial claim, an RFE, or an appeal, we can guide you through the dense USCIS language and help you receive the outcome you deserve.

We're looking forward to hearing from you!