Updated October 23, 2020:

If you receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) from USCIS, it can be daunting to know what to do, and you might be afraid that your application was denied. However, USCIS can deny immigration applications without sending an RFE, so receiving one does not mean that your application was denied.

What Is a Request for Evidence (RFE) From USCIS?

A Request for Evidence from USCIS means that USCIS has determined that it needs more information from you to make an informed decision about the status of your application. The RFE might be sent after an initial assessment of your application or further along in the process. This notice gives you the opportunity to fix your application or to provide needed information.

Keep in mind, the USCIS does retain the right to deny an immigration application without sending you an RFE if they find sufficient evidence to do so. For example, in the case that the documents you have submitted don't meet immigration standards and the reviewing immigration officer determines that submitting additional documentation will not change this decision, your application may be outright denied. However, in most common scenarios, the USCIS will request additional information by issuing an RFE before reaching this decision.

An RFE Is Different From a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID)

An RFE is different from a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID). If USCIS intends to deny your application, it will send out a NOID, not an RFE. If you receive a NOID, the USCIS has already ruled that you are not eligible for the benefits that you applied for. While a NOID doesn't officially deny your application, you'll probably need an immigration lawyer to help you win your case.

In other words, receiving an RFE from the USCIS only means that they need additional information from you before they can reach a decision. Immigration officers at the USCIS will typically send out an RFE once an initial assessment on your application has determined that they don't yet have all of the information they need to make an informed decision.

Once an RFE has been issued, you'll be given an opportunity to make corrections to any information you've already disclosed, if necessary. You'll also be able to provide documents that can further support your case or persuade the reviewing officers to approve your application.

Include the Right Evidence With Your RFE

Make sure that your RFE response includes any requested information or evidence that was requested by the USCIS officer. You may include other documents, in addition to what was directly requested if you feel that it will support your application. If you're not sure what documents to include, you should contact an immigration lawyer for guidance to ensure that you have the information that's needed.

Keep in mind that the reason you've received an RFE notification is that the reviewing officer needs additional information to consider your application. With that in mind, be sure to include any and all information and evidence that they might need to make an informed decision. This might mean sending more information than the RFE requires. The more detailed, supporting information you can send, the better your chances of getting an approval will become.

How to Submit an RFE Response

After you receive an RFE, it's time to prepare your response. Use the following steps to submit an RFE response:

  • Make a copy of the RFE because you will send the original RFE back with your request.
  • Place the original copy of the RFE on the top of your response documentation.
  • Write a cover letter that lists what documents are included in your response.
  • Make a copy of all documentation before it is sent.

It bears mentioning that, if you fail to include the original RFE notification or it's not the very first page in your response, your application is likely to be delayed. This is because the RFE needs to be the first thing the receiving officer scans in order to move the process along. It's also important to make sure you include the original RFE and not the copy you made for your own records.

The USCIS will not process a response received with a copy of the RFE. They will normally attempt to make it easy for you to keep the original separate from any copies you've made by printing it on colored paper.

Ensure That You Meet the Deadline Specified in the RFE

If you don't respond by the deadline listed in your RFE deadline, your application may be denied for either abandonment or incomplete documentation. If you move after you file your initial application, it's important to provide the USCIS with your new mailing address. It's also a good idea to make sure you have a forwarding address in place in the event you travel away from home for long periods of time. If you miss either of these steps, you might receive an RFE notification and miss the response deadline before you even have a chance to open it.

The amount of time you're given to an RFE will largely depend on the level of difficulty surrounding the requirements of the request. Most applicants are given between 30 and 84 days to submit a response. One of the most important aspects of responding to an RFE is meeting the specified deadline from USCIS. The sooner you're able to provide USCIS with the documents requested, the better your chances of a prompt and accurate response. If you were to miss the deadline in answering an RFE, you might need to file an appeal to reopen your application. This is a step that should be avoided.

You Get Only One Chance to Respond to an RFE

Because you're only going to be given one chance to respond, it's important to make sure that you include all relevant documentation at the same time. Even if you send a second response before the RFE's deadline, the USCIS will only accept the first response. Any documentation received after your initial response will typically be ignored. In a very small number of scenarios, however, such as when some of the required documents aren't readily available or can't be easily obtained, it may be acceptable to send a partial RFE response. This shouldn't be done without prior authorization from your reviewing immigration officer, though.

What Happens Next?

When USCIS issues an RFE, the processing of your original application will stop. Once you submit the appropriate paperwork in response to the RFE, you can expect to hear back from USCIS within the next 60 days about their decision or what further action is needed. If you don't respond to the RFE in time, USCIS will only base their decision on what information you initially provided and will most likely deny the application.

How to Prevent Receiving an RFE

There are some strategies that you can use to prevent receiving an RFE from USCIS in the first place. This can simplify and speed up the process. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Be as thorough as possible in your initial application to avoid further follow-up.
  • Include only relevant information in your application and any subsequent RFE since additional RFEs will be issued if there are questions.
  • Ensure that any information included in your RFE is factual since an incorrect response could lead to an immediate rejection.
  • Work with an attorney or legal representative from the beginning to increase your chances of a positive and timely outcome.

Helpful Tips for Responding to an RFE

It's important to take care of the RFE as quickly and accurately as possible. Failure to do so may delay or have a negative impact on the final outcome. Here are some helpful hints for responding to an RFE:

  • Read through the RFE carefully to avoid missing any important information, including the request for additional documentation.
  • Be patient when it comes to redundant requests for information, even if you feel that you've already submitted the information with your initial application.
  • Use concise and clear responses to provide a comprehensive answer.
  • Remember that your application can be denied because of insufficient responses to RFE inquiries.

Receiving an RFE from the USCIS can be a stressful ordeal, but it doesn't have to be if you're prepared for it. The most important thing to keep in mind is that an RFE does not necessarily mean your application is going to be denied. Simply respond to the USCIS' requests and you should be in good shape. However, navigating your way through this process without help from a professional is not recommended. Obtaining assistance from a legal professional who specializes in immigration law is always the best way to make sure your application is approved.

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