They’ve become quite common in the past year – yet the Request for Evidence (RFE) remains the scratching hair in immigration files to the United States: after weeks of preparation and work on your file, it’s finally been presented to the authorities when… bam, RFE! Oui Immigration gives you more information below.
What is a Request for Evidence (RFE)?
A RFE is a “Request for Evidence”. It is issued by the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), the U.S. immigration authority.
An RFE is a request for additional documents/information, following the submission of an immigration file. It means that your file is being reviewed, but that the officer in charge of your application needs additional details to decide whether he’s going to release your work permit, or not.
Do not confuse it with a NOID, which is a “Notice of Intent of Deny”. It is really better to receive an RFE than a NOID: the RFE means “I need more information“, while the NOID means “I have almost made my decision, and it is negative“.
What does it look like?
The RFE is in the form of an email sent to the person in charge of the file (usually, an immigration lawyer).
A paragraph detailing the application (type of permit requested, date of submission of the application, office in charge of the file) is followed by a statement indicating that additional documents/information must be provided, with, generally, legal texts arguing this request.
Follows the list of documents already provided, before we get to the heart of the topic: the subject that lacks evidence or information. This part is usually quite detailed, including examples of documents to provide (e.g. the family record book is not accepted, we want to receive a full birth certificate).
The document concludes with the deadline within which you must submit the missing documents, and a statement that if the document is not provided in this term, the risk of a NOID is high. The time limit varies depending on the type and number of information requested – it is by law 87 days, but can be reduced to 30 days if the USCIS deems that the evidence to be provided is minimal.
Who does it concern?
Anyone filing an immigration file with the USCIS.
How to react?
Do not panic. Receiving mail from any administration is never pleasant and can be stressful. In this case, RFEs have been very common for the last ten years – while in 99% of cases they are a legitimate request, RFEs are also a political way for the administration to respond to a lack of internal manpower by postponing deadlines.
At Oui Immigration, we systematically warn our clients that despite the care we take in preparing the files, they should expect an RFE: as incredible as it may seem, it is almost part of the procedure.
(1) Check what you have already sent
The requested proof may have already been provided in the list of documents sent initially.
(2) Fully understand the request and respond to it precisely
The more accurate the answer, the higher the chances of success – it is therefore important to clearly understand what is being asked, seeking outside help if needed.
Each requested document/information must be returned in a very clear manner –if the document cannot be provided, a full explanation detailing the absence of the document must be returned. Be factual!
Spend time on your pitch and include all the documents you feel can serve – this RFE is a unique opportunity to argue your case: even if you send documents in a second step, they will not be taken into consideration.
Keep in mind that you are talking to another human to explain your situation and respond to his requests!
(3) Meet the deadline
Returning your justifications beyond the deadline will be useless: the USCIS will not take them into account. It is therefore really important to respect the given date.
What happens after I reply to a RFE?
While waiting for your response, the USCIS stops the examination of your file – it is only resumed upon receipt of the documents requested during the RFE.
Typically, USCIS gives feedback within 60 days: positive, negative, or another request for information.
How do I avoid getting a RFE?
As explained earlier, RFEs have become relatively common in the recent years. In spite of this, the file presented must be prepared in such a way as to leave no doubt to the officer in charge of the application: the substance matters as much as the form.
The presentation must be clear, precise, crisp and legible; the substance must be reasoned, comprehensible. Put yourself in the official’s shoes: he must understand your request and follow its logic by finding the evidence that has been asked of you.
And above all, use an immigration expert or lawyer: it is his job and his expertise to set up these kinds of files. He knows what he has to do and what the authorities expect. You will save time, energy, money by having a professional to rely on.
Virginie Le Baler has been working in the global mobility industry for 12 years, with a very focused specialization on global immigration. She holds a MBA in International Human Resources.
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