When U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) needs more information in order to proceed any further on your application for residency, citizenship or a visa, the agency may send you a Request for Evidence (RFE), also known as Form I-797E. While receiving an RFE might be scary, there’s no need for panic as it simply means that the USCIS officer reviewing your application needs more information before he or she can make a decision. In this post, we’ll walk you through how you can handle your RFE in a timely manner so that your plans to move or stay in the United States aren’t delayed or derailed. 

RFE explained

The USCIS uses RFEs or Form I-797E if an application or petition is missing important necessary information. For example, if you were to file an I-765 to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), then you would need to provide proof demonstrating that you fall into the category of individuals eligible to apply. If you are an asylum seeker, for example, you will need to provide relevant documentation. Likewise, if you an immigrant seeking to have your spouse or family come and join you in the U.S., then you would need proof of marriage as well as your own identification and employment status.

In these scenarios, failing to include relevant documentation may mean delays to your application. However, rather than rejecting your application outright, USCIS provides another opportunity for you to resolve areas of concern by sending you an RFE.

An RFE usually arrives at the address you provided in your application in the form of a printed letter, typically on blue paper. 

How to handle an RFE

If you receive the RFE, the most important thing to do is to respond in a timely manner. If you fail to respond in time, your application or petition is more likely to be denied. Make sure that you start compiling the requested documents as soon as you receive your letter. The sooner you respond to the RFE, the sooner your application process can resume.

How to avoid RFEs

While you can resolve an RFE by providing as much information as possible in a timely manner, there are ways to avoid receiving them altogether. 

When filing your initial application, make sure to review the guidelines closely and take care to avoid the following scenarios, which are most likely to trigger an RFE:

Absence of initial evidence. USCIS needs written evidence to support your application. If you’re applying for an H-1B visa, for example, the government needs evidence that you have already found work.

Another common reason for the “absence of initial evidence” is incorrect or illegible documents. The good news is that this is usually a quick fix – simply find the documents that you need and re-submit them to USCIS. 

Sponsoring spouse does not have sufficient income. If you are applying for a marriage-based Green Card, your “sponsor” (spouse) must be able to support you. The assumption here is that you will arrive without a job, and will need a roof over their head. Usually, this requires the sponsor to be financially stable and earn an income at least 125% over the poverty line. Documents that could be considered evidence of spousal income include job contracts, payslips and tax returns.

Legal entry proof absence. Where a person wishing to sponsor a Green Card is already in the U.S., he or she will also be required to prove their legal presence in the country by providing a passport or a copy of their I-94 history.

Missing translation of documents. Missing translation of documents means that the documents you initially provided are in a foreign language and must be translated for USCIS. Therefore, you should make sure that your documentation is translated. You can do this by going to a legal office with your document, in order to have it translated officially. It is not permissible for you or your spouse to handle the translation, as this could allow you to swap out words. Keep in mind that most documents also use very precise legal language, and any mistranslation could drastically change the meaning.

“Unusual” cases. Sometimes an RFE might be issued if your situation is particularly unique. In these instances, try to think from the USCIS case worker’s perspective: provide clear proof to back up everything on your form and be as clear as possible. 

How to respond

But what if you still get an RFE? In most instances, the response process is straightforward.

The RFE typically comes with accompanying guidelines that explain which documents or information are missing and what you need to provide. 

Before responding, review the initial set of documents you sent to UCSIS and track down everything you need to include. Consider writing a cover letter addressing any points in the initial correspondence, which can accompany the supporting documents you plan to send. Your final package should ideally include the following elements: 

  • The RFE you received. This should be the first page of your response.
  • The documents that the RFE requested. Make sure that they are legible, in English and in a format that complies with USCIS specifications.
  • All documents from your original application, including your application form. 
  • Any further explanation or details that you feel could help to support your case; you can outline this in a cover letter. 

What to do while you wait

While you wait to hear back from USCIS after submitting your documents, you can prepare for your new life in the U.S. 

In the meantime, what can you be doing? There are lots of great ways to prepare for your trip that will ease your transition to life in the U.S., such as transferring your credit score. Even the most basic tasks such as getting a credit card, leasing an apartment, and getting a cell phone plan or student loan all require a U.S. credit score

Nova Credit has built technology to translate credit data from countries like Australia, Canada, India, Mexico, the UK and more into a U.S.-equivalent score that newcomers can elect to share with U.S. companies when they apply for credit products here.

This means that newcomers to the U.S. can now apply for credit cards, apartments, loans and other credit products by using their international credit history. Once you use your international credit history to get a credit card or other credit product here, you can start to build a U.S. score.

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The takeaway

While no one wants to receive an RFE,  it’s far from the end of the world. In fact, this is a very good thing! Thanks to the RFE, incomplete applications aren’t rejected on the first attempt. Instead, you have a chance to make things right and ensure that you are still considered for your visa. 

If you are confused about the response process, consider speaking with an attorney or an advisor who can help ensure that things go as smoothly as possible.