By: Maridex Abraham
Many people hire an immigration attorney when they decide to apply for a green card or some other immigration benefit. However, there are also plenty of people who choose to handle their own immigration case rather than retaining an attorney. They did their research, completed the required forms, paid the necessary fees, etc. Perhaps they even attended an interview before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”).
Then, after months of waiting for the case to be approved, they can hardly contain their excitement when they see a letter in their mailbox from the USCIS. Only it’s not an approval, it’s a “Request For Evidence” (“RFE”). Excitement turns into confusion, and sometimes, panic. The foreign citizen often thinks the following:
- “I submitted all the required documents. Why is USCIS asking for more evidence?”
- “This letter is really long and confusing. I do not know how to respond.”
- “Does this mean my case is denied?”
If this is happening to you, and you find yourself stuck in the middle of the immigration process, remember that all hope is not lost! You do not have to continue the process alone. You can still consult with an immigration attorney who can help you respond to USCIS when you are puzzled about why you received an RFE in the first place.
A Request for Evidence, commonly referred to as an RFE, is a request by USCIS for more information or documentation relating to your case before a decision can be made. An RFE does not mean that your case will automatically be denied. Rather, it’s an opportunity to present more information in support of your case.
An RFE can sometimes be several pages long and have legal terms that most people are not familiar with. A good immigration attorney will read the RFE carefully and help you sort through the confusing language to determine exactly what you need to submit in order for your application to be approved. They can also clarify any aspects of your application that may have been unclear to the USCIS.
It is also possible that, instead of issuing an RFE, the USCIS will issue a “Notice of Intent to Deny” (“NOID”) your application. Panic may very well set in at this point since the USCIS is telling you that they intend to deny your application. You may even feel like you are all out of options. Many people do unfortunately give up on their applications after receiving a NOID, mistakenly believing that they are out of options and that this is the end of the road. However, it is still not too late to consult with an immigration lawyer.
Even if you filed an application for an immigration benefit on your own, you can still hire an attorney to respond to the allegations in the NOID. It might alarm you to see the word “deny” on the letter, but you have to remember that an approval is still possible. The purpose of the NOID is to inform you that the USCIS officer is inclined to deny your application and to state the reasons why. Just like an RFE, you are given a limited number of days to submit a response. The response is your last chance to address the officer’s concerns and to let the officer know why he or she should not deny your case.
An experienced immigration attorney will be able to identify the main issues in the NOID and assess whether the officer’s reasons for issuing the NOID are valid. It is not unheard of for NOIDs to contain mistakes in facts or law. An attorney will know how to effectively address these errors and explain why the NOID should be withdrawn and your case should be approved. But even if the NOID is factually correct, then you need to work closely with your attorney to convince the officer that you are indeed eligible for the requested benefit.
It is never too late to seek help from an immigration lawyer, no matter where you are in the application process for immigration benefits. Whether you are in the beginning, middle, or late stages in the process, consulting with a lawyer can be beneficial to your case and may even make a difference in the outcome of your case.