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All About USCIS Requests for Evidence (RFEs): What They Are, How To Avoid Them, and What To Do if You Receive One

In a Nutshell

When U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines that it needs extra information to make a decision on your immigration case, it will send you a request for evidence, also called an RFE. USCIS will send it to the mailing address you listed on your application. In this article, we will explain what a USCIS request for evidence is, how to avoid RFEs, and how to respond to a USCIS RFE if you receive one.

Written by Jonathan Petts
Written May 30, 2022


What Is a Request for Evidence (RFE)?‍

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will send you an RFE on your application if it determines that it needs more information to finish processing your application. For example, if you are applying for a green card, you must provide enough evidence to prove that you are eligible. If you don't provide enough evidence to prove that you are eligible, USCIS will probably send you an RFE. 

USCIS sends out Form I-797E, also called a notice of action, when it issues an RFE. You will receive Form I-797E at the mailing address that you provided on your application. If your mailing address has changed since you submitted your application, you must update your new address with USCIS so that you do not miss any critical updates.

An RFE contains four major parts: the law, a list of the evidence you submitted, a list of the evidence you are missing, and a response deadline. Read on to learn more about each of these parts of a USCIS request for evidence.

The Law

The RFE usually begins by quoting U.S. immigration law. This quotation will refer to a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that has to do with the requirements for the type of immigration application you submitted. 

Generally speaking, unless you plan to challenge the request with the help of a lawyer, this section of the RFE isn’t crucial. What is important is that you supply any requested evidence as soon as possible. 

Evidence Submitted

This section outlines the evidence you have already submitted in support of your application. Double-check the list of evidence USCIS has received from you to confirm that it included everything you sent with your original application. If USCIS did not include something you submitted on this list, you should resubmit it as part of your RFE response packet.

Evidence Lacking

After USCIS lists what it has already received from you, it will list the missing evidence that it still needs. This lack of evidence is preventing the agency from making a decision on your case according to the requirements of the immigration law quoted earlier in the notice. 

This section of the RFE is often quite long because USCIS will usually include information like eligibility requirements that have not been satisfied and alternate documents that you can submit if you don't have the requested originals. You should review this section very closely and take note of all the information you will need to include in your RFE response to support your case.

Response Deadline

Finally, at the end of the RFE, USCIS will provide you with a deadline for submitting your RFE response, as well as the mailing address to send it to. The response deadline will let you know how much time you have to put your RFE response together and mail it. Keep in mind that your response must arrive at the USCIS office by the deadline; it is not acceptable to simply have your response postmarked by the deadline.

In the deadline section, USCIS will tell you the consequences of not submitting your RFE response by the deadline. The most common consequence is that USCIS will review your application without the missing information and will likely deny your application.

Does Receiving an RFE Mean My Application Was Rejected?

No. Receiving an RFE does not mean that USCIS has rejected your application, nor does it necessarily mean that it willreject your application. It just means that USCIS needs more information from you to make a decision on your application. 

When you receive an RFE, you need to submit your response by the time noted on the RFE notice. If you don't, USCIS will either conclude that you have abandoned your application and send you a denial or go ahead and decide your case without the additional information requested. For this reason, it is imperative to make sure USCIS has your updated address if you move so that you can receive the notice and submit your response in the specified time frame. 

Is a NOID a Type of RFE?

You can think of a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) as a more severe form of an RFE. USCIS will send you a NOID and not an RFE when it finds that you are not eligible for the immigrant visa you applied for. The NOID lists all the reasons why USCIS plans to deny your application and gives you a chance to defend your application against denial. 

You generally have a shorter timeframe to submit a NOID response than you have for an RFE response. Receiving a NOID does not mean that USCIS has denied your application — just that it plans to unless you can convince the agency otherwise. A NOID often means that your case is complicated, so it is best not to handle one alone. 

If you receive a NOID, you should consult with a skilled immigration lawyer. If you’d like to ask a lawyer about a NOID you received, take advantage of our Ask an Attorney program to speak with one for $24/month.

How Can I Avoid an RFE?

RFEs can take a lot of time and energy to respond to, and they will usually delay your application. It’s best to avoid them altogether by submitting an organized and complete application the first time around. If you follow USCIS’ application instructions closely and include all the requested documents, you should be able to avoid an RFE. Here are a few tips to help you avoid receiving an RFE.

Provide All Required Initial Evidence

For every immigration form that you file with USCIS, there are form instructions available that tell you exactly how to prepare it. These instructions also list the required evidence that you must include with your application when you submit it to USCIS. If you don’t include allof the required documents, you will probably receive an RFE. 

USCIS asks for all kinds of evidence documents. For example, if you're applying for a marriage-based green card and don’t include proof that you are married, you will almost certainly get an RFE from USCIS. You may also receive an RFE if the documents you included are difficult to read.

Include Document Translations

If the documents you submit as evidence are in a language other than English and you don't provide a certified English translation to USCIS, you may receive an RFE. Every document you submit to USCIS must be translated into English by someone other than you or your sponsor so that the reviewing officer can process your application. Your foreign language documents must be translated officially, preferably by a legal office that does translations so that the documents do not lose any legal meaning.

Give Comprehensive Evidence of Your Visa Sponsor’s Income

This tip is applicable to family-based immigrant visa applicants who have a petitioner sponsoring on their behalf. For this type of application, USCIS requires applicants to prove that their sponsor has a household income of at least 125% of the federal poverty level. If your sponsor’s income is not high enough, or if you don't provide enough information to show that they earn enough, USCIS may send you an RFE asking you to make a stronger case about your sponsor's financial standing. In some cases, the agency may require you to find an additional sponsor. 

Provide Proof of Legal Entry

If you apply for adjustment of status (if you're submitting your immigration application from inside the U.S.), you must submit proof that you entered the country legally. You can show this with a page from your passport containing the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) stamp or with your I-94 travel record. If you don't provide sufficient evidence of legal entry, you could receive an RFE asking you to clarify the details of your arrival in the U.S.

The best way to avoid an RFE is to submit a complete application the first time. Check out our complete filing guides for step-by-step guidance in completing your application to ensure you are not missing anything or leaving any evidence out.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Responding to an RFE

If you receive an RFE from USCIS, pay close attention to the response deadline listed. Your response packet needs toarrive at USCIS on or before this date. It is not good enough to simply have your packet postmarked by the deadline. Plan ahead and act quickly. It almost always takes longer to get the required evidence than you would think!  

Step 1: Make a Copy of the RFE Notice

When you get an RFE, the first thing you should do is make a copy of it for your records. You will need to submit the original RFE notice (the blue paper you received from USCIS) with your response in order for USCIS to correctly process the response with your case. 

Step 2: Gather the Requested Evidence

The most important step in your RFE response is gathering the requested evidence. USCIS will usually tell you exactly what evidence you need to supply. This can be anything from missing passport pages or an incomplete bank statement to a birth certificate that is not in English. In such a case, you should include complete versions of the missing documents. 

In some RFEs, USCIS may state that some of the documents you provided from your home country as evidence are not sufficient. USCIS may say this based on its understanding of the document type your home country produces for things such as marriage. If you receive such an RFE, you should visit the State Department's U.S. Visa: Reciprocity and Civil Documents by Country web page. There, you will find a list of documents from your home country and what documents they are equivalent to in the U.S. 

A general rule of thumb is the more evidence you provide, the better. At a minimum, though, you should give USCIS what it is asking for on the RFE. If you can't tell exactly what USCIS needs, take a look at the filing instructions for the immigration form that you filed on USCIS’ website for more guidance. USCIS will not send the documents you provided in your RFE response back to you. Because of this, you should include copies instead of the original documents unless USCIS specifically tells you otherwise.

When to Consult a Lawyer for an RFE

In other RFEs, USCIS will question your eligibility for the immigration benefit you are applying for, based on some aspect of U.S. immigration law. In this case, you will have to prove in your RFE response that you are eligible for the application you are submitting. 

If you receive this type of RFE, you may want to talk this over with an experienced immigration attorney who can help you determine how to reply and which documents to submit as evidence. Take advantage of our Ask an Attorney program to speak with a lawyer for $24/month.

Step 3: Prepare Your RFE Response Packet

Assemble your response to the RFE in the same order that USCIS listed the evidence. The original copy of the RFE should be the first page of your response. Next, it is a good idea to include a cover letter that lists all the information that the USCIS officer reviewing your response will find in your RFE response packet. You should list the enclosed evidence in the order in which you include it so that it is easy for the USCIS reviewing officer to locate the documents when handling your case.

Step 4: Mail Your RFE Response Packet to USCIS

The final step is to mail the RFE response packet to the mailing address listed on the RFE notice. You must send your response to this address and not to any other USCIS address you may have previously mailed documents to. 

Mail your RFE response packet as early as possible so that it does not arrive at the USCIS after the RFE deadline. If your RFE response arrives later than its due date, USCIS will not consider it when reviewing your application. This may cause the agency to deny your application.

Choose a shipping service with tracking for the same reason. If there is any question about whether you submitted the requested evidence on time, you want to be able to have proof. Without proof that you complied with the deadline, USCIS may deny your application.

‍Types of RFE Responses

You can respond to an RFE in one of three ways: a full response, a partial response, or no response.

Full Response

In a full response, you include all of the evidence USCIS requested of you (or more if you think that evidence would be useful for USCIS) before the due date. You should make it your goal to go above and beyond the evidence USCIS requests so that you don't risk any further problems with your application.

Partial Response

If it is not possible to get all of the evidence you need, you should submit a partial response to USCIS. In a partial response, you will include as much of the evidence that USCIS requested as possible. You will then need to explain to USCIS why it is not possible for you to get the missing evidence. If possible, you should include evidence that proves the requested evidence is unavailable with your explanation.

A partial response indicates to USCIS that you would like the agency to make a decision on your case with the evidence that is available at the time. If you are worried that the missing evidence will cause USCIS to deny your application, you can withdraw your application without a penalty, but you will not receive your filing fees back, if any. 

No Response

You may choose not to respond to an RFE from USCIS. If you choose not to respond or if you are unable to before the due date, USCIS will do one of two things: 

  • Determine that you have abandoned your case and issue a denial

  • Process your case without the requested evidence, often leading to a denial

Neither is an ideal option, so, if you don’t plan to respond to an RFE, it is often better to just withdraw your application by contacting USCIS

How Many Times Can I Respond to an RFE?

You only have one chance to respond to your USCIS RFE, so make sure that you include all the evidence you want USCIS to consider when you submit your RFE response. You cannot reply to the RFE by sending evidence to USCIS in different mailings — you must submit all of your evidence in one packet.

RFEs can be tricky. If you have any questions while replying to one, it would be a good idea to speak with an experienced immigration lawyer. Use our Ask an Attorney program to speak with a lawyer for $24/month.

The best way to avoid an RFE is to submit a strong, complete application. We can help you prepare your immigration application for free with our web app.

Conclusion

Responding to a request for evidence from USCIS can be complicated, but help is available. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the immigration process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. If our app isn’t a good fit or you just have immigration questions you need answered, you can speak with an independent attorney for just $24/month through our Ask an Attorney program.


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