When the USCIS adjudicator who is reviewing your case needs additional information to complete your application, the adjudicator will mail you a Request for Evidence (RFE). The RFE should indicate an expected timeframe for your response, typically within 30 – 90 days (but never more than 12 weeks). Your response to the RFE is considered on-time as long as the response is received no later than 3 days after the final deadline.
Once USCIS receives your response to the RFE, the adjudicator will issue a notice of receipt with an expected timeline to review your newly submitted evidence. In most cases the standard processing time is 60 days, though the actual processing time can be anywhere from 15 days to 80 days depending on the adjudicator’s workload. If you haven’t received a response within 60 days of responding to your RFE, you should call USCIS customer service to check on the status of your application.
What is an RFE?
USCIS may issue an RFE (Form I-797E) any time an application or petition lacks sufficient evidence or documentation to make a final decision. An RFE does not mean that your application is going to be denied—it simply means that the adjudicator who is reviewing your case needs a little more information to approve your petition. USCIS is under no obligation to issue an RFE before denying a petition, so if your application was truly on the chopping block it would simply be denied without an RFE.
An RFE should include specific instructions as to what evidence or documentation is required. You are welcome to attach additional evidence to your response, but at a minimum your response should fulfill the specific request listed on the RFE.
The RFE should also include an expected timeline for your response, often anywhere from 30 – 90 days. Failure to respond in a timely manner may result in your application being denied, whether the adjudicator assumes you abandoned your petition or makes a final decision based on the evidence on hand.
Anytime you have a pending petition with USCIS, you should diligently update USCIS when you move or spend time outside of the country. If you fail to meet the deadline on an RFE because it was sent to an old address or you were out of the country, petition will be denied.
What to Include With Your RFE
In some cases, an RFE will simply state that a required document is missing. Perhaps you didn’t include a copy of your stamped passport pages, or you forgot to include a dependent’s birth certificate. These are the easiest requests to resolve and shouldn’t require more than 30 days to process once you submit your response.
In other cases, an RFE may cite a provision of US Immigration law and request that you provide additional evidence to prove your eligibility under that provision. These can be challenging to respond to, as you may need to build a case with several supporting documents to sufficiently prove your eligibility. If you find yourself on the receiving end of such an RFE and you haven’t already retained an attorney, you should consult with an immigration attorney before responding to the RFE. An experienced immigration attorney will know what evidence you need to include to prove your eligibility beyond a shadow of a doubt to ensure your petition is approved.
You may also be able to use an RFE as an opportunity to include additional evidence beyond the scope of the RFE to bolster your application. If you came across additional supporting evidence after submitting your initial petition, this is a great opportunity to submit these supporting documents for a second review of your case.
How to Respond to an RFE
Once you have assembled your evidence, make a copy of the RFE. Keep the copy for your records and place the original (usually a blue Form I-797E) at the front of your response packet. USCIS will need the original RFE to scan and process your response upon submission, and if you fail to include the original it will delay the processing time.
Next, write a cover letter that outlines the contents of your response packet. Try to organize the cover letter similar to the format of the RFE so that it’s easy to understand. If you have included additional evidence that was not explicitly requested, be sure to explain why you chose to include it and how it may impact your application. Make a copy of the cover letter and store it with the copy of Form I-797E in your records.
When you’re ready to submit your response, mail the response packet to the submission address listed on the RFE. Note that this may be different than the address that you originally sent your application to, and it may be different than the return address listed on the envelope when you received the RFE by mail. Send your response packet by priority mail with delivery confirmation so that you have proof that you complied with the submission deadline.
What is the Difference between an RFE and an NOID?
A Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) is much more serious than an RFE. While an RFE indicates that your application is missing evidence to make a final decision, an NOID means that you have provided enough initial evidence to evaluate your application and you are determined to be ineligible based on that evidence. Furthermore, where an RFE doesn’t inherently imply that your application is on the chopping block, an NOID indicates that the adjudicator has made a negative determination and you must take immediate action to salvage your application.
If you receive an NOID from USCIS, you should consult with an immigration attorney as soon as possible. A NOID is not an official denial, but if you do not respond with convincing evidence in a timely manner, your petition will be immediately denied. In most cases, it’s safe to say that you will need the assistance of a seasoned immigration attorney to convince the adjudicator that their original determination was wrong, and your case merits an approval based on new evidence.
Call our Immigration team at(480) 626-2388 to discuss your case today.
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