Imagine your excitement when you finally receive mail from the United States Citizenship and Naturalization Service (USCIS). Then think of how crestfallen you might feel when you find a Request for Evidence (RFE) letter inside the envelope.
Receiving an RFE letter can be extra frustrating if you have already been waiting months for some sort of response from USCIS on your case. Nevertheless, responding to an RFE can be an opportunity to make sure that your petition is approvable by a USCIS officer.
What’s an RFE?
Foreign nationals who have never heard of an RFE should consider themselves lucky. If you “Ask Emma” about them on the USCIS website, here is what she will say:
"A request for evidence (RFE) is made when an application or petition is lacking required documentation (initial evidence), or the officer needs more documentation (additional evidence) to determine an applicant's eligibility for the benefit sought. We may send you a request for evidence at any stage of our review. The request will indicate what evidence or information is needed for us to fully evaluate your application or petition. The notice will explain where to send the evidence and will give the deadline for your response. Your application or petition will be held in suspense during that time. If you receive a request for evidence and have questions about what you need to submit, you may call our USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283."
So, basically, an RFE is the Department of Homeland Security’s way of making sure that they have everything they need to approve a case. However, sometimes, an RFE can be a stall tactic on the part of USCIS.
REQUEST FOR EVIDENCE DURING PREMIUM PROCESSING
Certain immigration petitions and applications, such as for the EB-1A extraordinary ability green card and the E-2 treaty investor nonimmigrant visa allow applicants to submit Form I-907 to request premium processing. Paying an additional $2,500 for premium processing means that a USCIS officer must “act” on the case within 15 calendar days. However, frequently this speedy processing means the issuance of an RFE, or worse, a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID).
The bright side is that beneficiaries of more complex cases, such as the EB-1A or the E-2, can treat the initial application sort of like a practice exam. They can use the RFE letter as a form of cheat sheet to see exactly what they must do to “pass” the test by getting an approval.
GETTING AN RFE AFTER YOU FILED THE CASE YOURSELF
Some noncitizens prefer to petition for an EB-1A, an EB-2 NIW, or an E-2 themselves in order to save money. But, as a colleague once quipped, “Just because I can put a new transmission in my car myself doesn’t mean that I will feel safe driving it afterwards.” There is a reason that people get surgery from people who went to medical school and highlights from licensed beauty professionals. To do otherwise can mean disaster.
If you tried to file your immigration case yourself and received a NOID or RFE from USCIS, you can still save your case. Many immigration law firms near you are willing to take you on as a client and respond to your RFE. Some law firms, like Gallagher Domanski Professional Law Corporation, will apply the legal fee for the RFE response to the cost of refiling the case, should it become necessary.