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Turning RFEs into Approvals: How to Handle a Request for Evidence
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Turning RFEs into Approvals: How to Handle a Request for Evidence

One of the hurdles you may encounter along your path to U.S. citizenship is a Request for Evidence (RFE) from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). An RFE isn’t a rejection — it’s an opportunity to strengthen your case and provide additional information to support your application.

In this article, we'll guide you through the procedure involved in responding to a Request for Evidence to ensure that you're prepared to respond effectively and increase your chances of a successful immigration outcome. If you need further assistance with your immigration case, consider consulting a trusted immigration law firm for professional guidance and support.

Understanding the Purpose of an RFE

Understanding the Purpose of an RFE

The purpose of an RFE is to seek additional information or documentation from an applicant when their initial submission for a particular immigration benefit is insufficient or unclear.

USCIS issues RFEs to give applicants a chance to furnish the necessary evidence or clarification to support their applications. This, in turn, ensures that the agency can make an informed decision about their requests. Responding to an RFE is a crucial step in the immigration process, as failure to do so may result in the denial of your application.

Steps to Handle an RFE from USCIS

Receiving an RFE can be stressful, but with the right approach, you can overcome this speed bump and get your immigration journey back on track. The following essential steps will help you respond to a Request for Evidence in a way that will ultimately enhance your application and improve your chances of being granted immigration benefits.

1. Carefully Review the RFE

When you receive a Request for Evidence from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the first thing you should do is carefully review the document.

An RFE typically outlines specific issues with your application or the particular information USCIS needs to make a decision about it. Pay close attention to the included instructions, as they’ll provide key guidance on what needs to be addressed.

It’s necessary to understand USCIS's concerns in order to craft an effective response. Take note of any deadlines mentioned in the RFE — missing these deadlines could result in your application being denied.

2. Identify Missing or Insufficient Documentation

Once you've reviewed the RFE, make a list of any missing or insufficient documentation mentioned. USCIS issues RFEs when they believe there’s a gap in the information or evidence required to process your application.

Carefully compare the RFE with your initial submission to identify the specific items requested. This could include additional financial records, proof of relationship, or other supporting documents. Make it a point to address each item individually in your response to ensure that you meet the agency’s requirements.

3. Gather the Necessary Documents

Gather the Necessary Documents

At this point, you can start gathering the documents and evidence requested in the RFE.

Create a checklist to make sure you collect everything you need to support your immigration application. Be diligent about obtaining official copies of documents, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, financial records, and other relevant materials. If any of the requested documents aren’t readily available, take steps to acquire them as quickly as possible.

It's important to present a comprehensive and organized set of documents in your response to the RFE to bolster your case and improve your chances of a favorable outcome.

4. Draft a Comprehensive Response

With all the required documents in hand, it's time to write a response to the RFE.

Begin by addressing each of USCIS's concerns individually and in a clear, straightforward manner. Explain the significance of the provided documents and how they fulfill the requirements outlined in the RFE. Use a cover letter to introduce your response and provide a detailed table of contents to help USCIS officials navigate your submission easily.

It’s vital that your response be well-organized, written in a professional tone, and free of errors or factual inaccuracies. Your aim should be to demonstrate your commitment to complying with USCIS requests and providing the necessary information to support your immigration application.

5. Organize and Label Your Documents

You must properly organize and label your documents to ensure that USCIS officials can quickly and easily review your response. Arrange your documents in a logical order that matches USCIS's request, placing the most important documents first. Also, use clear, descriptive labels or tabs for each section or document to make it evident what each piece of evidence represents.

Organizing your response in this manner will demonstrate your attention to detail and professionalism, which can positively impact USCIS's perception of your case. A well-organized submission not only facilitates the review process but also strengthens your credibility as an applicant.

6. Meet the Required Deadline

Adhering to the deadline specified in the RFE is of the utmost importance. USCIS typically provides a specific timeframe within which you must submit your response. Failing to meet this deadline can lead to your application being denied.

To ensure that you don't miss your deadline, set reminders for yourself and create a timeline for preparing and submitting your response. Keep in mind that USCIS may not grant extensions, so it's imperative that you submit your response well in advance of the deadline to allow for any unforeseen delays, such as postal or courier service delays.

Meeting deadlines is a central aspect of responding to official correspondence and maintaining your good standing as an immigration applicant.

Tips for Responding to an RFE

The way you respond to a Request for Evidence from USCIS will influence the speed and ease with which you move through the immigration process. In fact, your future in the United States may depend on it.

To make sure you’re adequately prepared, we've gathered a few tips to help you craft a compelling response.

Be Thorough and Accurate

When you receive an RFE, it's important to respond to it with careful attention to detail.

The RFE will specify the need for missing documents or additional evidence related to your immigration application. Take some time to examine it thoroughly and comprehend the precise requirements it presents.

Start by meticulously organizing all the evidence you originally submitted with your initial application, then compare these documents to USCIS’s Request for Evidence. Verify that the submitted materials are complete, current, and directly pertinent to the specific requests outlined in the RFE.

It’s worth reiterating that failure to meet the response deadline with all the requested evidence may impact the outcome of your immigration application.

Provide Clear, Concise Explanations

Tips for Responding to an RFE

When crafting your response to USCIS, clarity is paramount. Agency officials must be able to easily read and understand the evidence you submit. For this reason, it’s critical to address each request for missing evidence in a direct, concise manner, paying particular attention to the required evidence.

Make use of intelligently organized headings, bullet points, and numbered lists to make the review process easier for USCIS officials. Whenever you encounter complex issues or terminology, do your best to provide straightforward explanations without unnecessary jargon.

If you’ve been asked to submit other supporting documents, make sure you label them clearly and incorporate a table of contents to help USCIS officials navigate your submission without having to flip around.

Keep Copies of Everything

Throughout the RFE response process, you should make a point to maintain meticulous records. Make photocopies or scans of all documents, forms, and correspondence related to your immigration case, including the original RFE and your subsequent response. Keep these copies together in an easily accessible place so you can reference them as needed.

Careful record-keeping and organization will help you track the progress of your case, guarantee that you have proof of your compliance with official requests, and provide a foundation for any future legal action, if necessary. Having a comprehensive record of your interactions with USCIS can also be useful in the event of disputes or delays.

Seek Legal Counsel if Necessary

Responding to an RFE can be somewhat challenging, especially if your case involves nuanced legal considerations or you’re uncertain how to adequately address the RFE's requests. If you find yourself in such a situation, it’s advisable to seek the guidance of an experienced immigration attorney.

A skilled attorney can provide reliable advice, review your response for compliance with relevant immigration laws, and ensure that you’re presenting the strongest possible case. They can also help you deal with any legal complications that arise during the process, ultimately increasing your chances of a favorable ruling.

Submitting Your RFE Response

For the sake of making sure you understand what’s required of you, here’s an overview of the steps you’ll need to take to draft and submit your RFE response:

  • Review the RFE: Read the RFE letter from start to finish to determine exactly what USCIS is requesting, paying particular attention to the specific documents or information they request.
  • Compile Your Response: Gather all the requested documents and supporting information, double-checking that they’re organized and clearly labeled to make it easy for USCIS officials to review.
  • Write a Cover Letter: Include a cover letter explaining your response; reference the RFE notice and offer a succinct explanation of the documents you’re submitting
  • Complete Form G-1145 (Optional): If you want to receive electronic notifications about your case, fill out and include Form G-1145, "e-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance.”
  • Follow Official Formatting Guidelines: Make sure you’re abiding by USCIS’s guidelines for formatting your information, which may include placing the RFE notice on top of your response and using a paper clip to attach documents instead of staples.
  • Mail Your Response: Use the address provided on the RFE notice to send your response (it’s a good idea to use a trackable delivery method and keep a copy of everything you submit).

Submitting a complete, orderly RFE response is non-negotiable if you want to ensure the success of your immigration application or petition. Be thorough, accurate, and timely in your submission, and be prepared to act on any further instructions in a similar fashion.

Following Up and Awaiting a Decision

There are several ways you can follow up after submitting a response to a Request for Evidence to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

USCIS processing times can vary, and waiting can be a nerve-racking experience. You can check the status of your case online using the USCIS tracking system. You might also consider contacting USCIS customer service or your immigration attorney for updates if a long enough time has passed and you still haven’t heard anything.

Patience is key during this period, as USCIS officials will have to review your response and included materials in depth before deciding on your application.

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Handle Your RFE Confidently

Successfully responding to an RFE from USCIS can be a daunting task. The legal professionals at SimVisa understand the intricacies of immigration processes like this and are here to guide you every step of the way. Our experienced immigration attorneys are dedicated to helping you remove roadblocks along your path to achieving your immigration goals.

Don't let a Request for Evidence deter you from pursuing new opportunities in the United States. Contact us today for personalized guidance and support tailored to your unique situation. With SimVisa by your side, you can confidently respond to any official correspondence and get one step closer to making your American dream come true.

Turning RFEs into Approvals: How to Handle a Request for Evidence
SohYoon Atac
co-founder of SimVisa

Sohyoon is the co-founder of SimVisa. She has over 15 years of immigration specific experience and as an immigrant herself, fully understands the daunting nature of navigating the immigration process.

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