REQUEST FOR EVIDENCE (I-797E)
After filing an application or petition for immigration benefits, USCIS will often respond by sending the applicant/petitioner an I-797E Request for Initial Evidence (RFE) form. As the name suggests, by doing so, USCIS is asking the applicant/petitioner to provide (more) evidence in support of the application or petition that has been filed. In accordance with the regulations, the applicant/petitioner will be given a certain amount of time to respond to the RFE and provide the additional evidence, after which time USCIS will either consider the additional documents and make a decision OR, if no response has been received, make a decision based upon the evidence already in the record.
There are several important points that must be kept in mind when responding to these requests:
- RFE = Potential Problem with Your Case. By sending you an RFE, USCIS is telling you that there may be a potential problem with your case that may prevent it from being approved unless you file a timely response with the evidence requested. That said, keep in mind that it is fairly common for USCIS to issue RFE's these days, so if you receive one, do not automatically assume that you are being singled out or that your case will be denied. Remember that it is the applicant/petitioner's burden to prove eligibility for the immigration benefit that is being sought. This means that you alone are responsible for proving each and every requirement that relates to eligibility and USCIS simply needs to review whatever you give them and make a decision based upon the law. Even though the regulations give you the option of not responding and allowing USCIS to make a decision on the application/petition (and the evidence you have already submitted), by sending you an RFE, USCIS is giving you a "heads up" that something is deficient with your appliciation and/or the supporting evidence - which in all likelihood will result in a denial unless you can overcome the deficiency and provide an adequate response.
- Read the RFE carefully and make your own list of each and every document or item of evidence that USCIS is requesting.
- Do Not Delay. As a practical matter, once USCIS has issued an RFE, the processing of the case will essentially stop and be put on the "back burner" until the applicant/petitioner has either filed a response OR the time for responding has passed. It is worth noting that during this time, USCIS will also stop processing a simultaneously filed I-765 Application for Employment Authorization (work permit). Thus, your applications will be on hold until you respond.
- File Your Evidence On Time. It is critical that any and all evidence be filed with USCIS on or before the date stated on the RFE. Filing on time generally means that it has to be received by USCIS on or before the stated date. Having your response post-marked by the deadline is not sufficient and may result in having USCIS completely disregard your response - and thus deny your case.
- File ALL of your Evidence at One Time. Do not file your evidence in installments. Take the time that you were granted to gather up all of the documents and items and send them back to USCIS in one package.
- Put the Colored Form on Top. Remember to include the original RFE Notice (which usually comes on colored paper) with your submission and place it on top of your Evidence.
- Make a Complete Copy of your Submission. Remember to make a complete copy of your submission for your records.
- Send you Submission using a Method of Delivery that you can Track, such as FedEx, DHS, USPS certified mail, return receipt, delivery confirmation and follow up to make sure that your Submission was received by USCIS before the due date. You can usually do this by entering your tracking number online with the carrier that you used. ALSO be sure to check the status of your case online at the USCIS website and make sure that they have updated your file to show that your response was received.
- Make sure that you send your Submission to the correct USCIS address. Read the Notice carefully and make sure that you take note of the exact address to where you must send your Submission and make sure that you write it down correctly on the envelope or package that you use to send it.
- If Requested, Re-File Previously Filed Evidence. Sometimes, the RFE will request that the applicant or petitioner provide evidence and documents that were already submitted with the original filing, as if to suggest that the evidence was never filed or received in the first place. Our strategy in these cases is to simply comply with the request and refile all of the evidence. In most cases, this will be fairly easy and will only amount to organizing a few pages of papers and resending them. Other times, it can be very burdensome and may even cost money, where for instance, USCIS is requesting that forms or documents be signed and notarized (and the individual is out of the country) or a medical report be submitted (which was already paid for and provided). In these instances, rather than getting into a lengthy debate with USCIS over whether these forms or documents were already provided (and risk additional delays or, worse, a denial), we simply avoid the argument and comply with the Request. Why spend hundreds, or even thousands of dollars in initial filing fees, only to later get bogged down with USCIS in an argument over whether a document was already filed or a medical report was already paid for and provided? Save yourself the trouble and simply obtain the requested documents and send them back to USCIS ASAP.
If you need representation or assistance in responding to a Request for Initial Evidence, call South Florida Immigration Lawyer Sean D. Hummel at (954) 385-3111.