Sometimes, immigration law can be a rugged territory to cruise on. All those filing forms, fees you need to pay, evidence you have to submit, interviews to undertake can make you feel trapped in your immigration case. Therefore, it is advisable to hire a lawyer from the first beginning to lead you through the whole process.
But what if you have already undertaken some steps without seeking legal help and received an RFE or a NOID after your I-130 or I-751 petition? Although it might seem that the situation is not bright, do you need to panic, or is there still something to do about it?
First of all, we will remind you to relax and take a deep breath. The good thing is there is a solution, and no need to be worried. This article will provide you with answers to the most common concerns when it comes to those two USCIS actions and equip you with information on how to handle it.
What are RFE and NOID?
When the petition lacks evidence, USCIS will dispatch a Request for Evidence (RFE). This creates an additional opportunity for petitioners to provide proofs that are important for their cases.
Immigration officers at the USCIS will usually issue an RFE when an initial assessment on your application has determined that they need more information to make an informed decision.
Once an RFE has been sent out, you’ll be allowed to make corrections to any information you’ve already disclosed, if necessary. You’ll also provide documents that can further support your case or persuade the reviewing officers to approve your application.
Usually, such requests concern a copy of a birth certificate, degree, passport, marriage license, or any other relevant document which is not complicated to obtain. Still, sometimes it can request some more difficult copies, such as a request to employers for bank statements demonstrating an ability to pay the prevailing wage.
In order to avoid rejection of your petition, you will have to respond to the RFE appropriately. These Requests for Evidence are prevalent lately, and those are becoming even more frequent since the USCIS scrutinizes cases in more detail such as those for H-1B visas.
To conclude and put it in other words, if you receive an RFE from the USCIS, it only means that they need additional information before reaching a decision.
The other USCIS document you can receive after you file the I-130 petition is a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID). As its name says, when USCIS intends to deny your application, it will send you out a NOID, and not an RFE we talked about earlier.
If you receive a NOID, this will mean the USCIS has already decided that you are not eligible.
Now, wait: it doesn’t mean either the USCIS has already officially denied your application when it delivers NOID. But, it does mean that your path to winning the case is more challenging and that you’ll probably need to seek help from an immigration lawyer to win your case.
However, there are several noticeable differences between RFE and NOID to bear in mind when it comes to these two notices:
- RFEs are usually sent out because the USCIS is unsure whether your petition should be approved, so it needs more evidence to determine the outcome. On the other side, you may receive NOID when the officer deems that the petition shouldn’t be approved, but believes that additional evidence you may provide could affect the final decision.
- RFEs will include a list of the evidence needed to avoid a denial or rejection, but NOID will consist of a list of reasons why your petition is likely to be denied. Based on the listed reasons, you will need to determine what evidence you could provide and convince the offices to sway the decision.
- Deadlines also differ: you will likely be given a shorter time to respond to a NOID than you would for an RFE.
Why Do Marriage-Based Applicants Get NOID or RFE?
Firstly, let’s clarify why and in what circumstances marriage-based applicants receive RFE or NOID. In the United States, being married is not an instant ticket to obtaining a U.S. green card.
This might disappoint many couples since the burden to convince USCIS that the immigrant deserves a U.S. green card is on the applicants. If you intend to do so, you must be ready to demonstrate your eligibility by ensuring firm evidence.
On the way to getting a permanent residence, there are two steps to undertake in process. The first step is to file an I-130 immigrant relative petition. If it gets the approval, it enables petitioners to advance to the next step and apply for permanent resident status.
Many immigrants who want to obtain a marriage-based green card fail in the first step of the process, but you can guess your mistake since you are reading this article. Often, petitioners perceive filing the spousal I-130 petition as a trivial requirement due to its limited set of questions.
USCIS holds the power to ask for as much evidence as it deems necessary before it is convinced that your application is eligible for approval.
It might issue a NOID or RFE for multiple reasons, mainly including insufficient evidence of a bona fide relationship, discrepancies or inconsistencies in each spouse’s testimony, discovery of negative information, and 204(c) fraud finding.
Sometimes, you will find very detailed information in the USCIS issued document regarding allegations. Still, those may seem vague more than often, so make sure to hire an immigration expert in order to respond adequately.
How to Respond to RFE or NOID?
Depending on what phase the case is at, there is a difference in who is responsible for responding to the issued document: the petitioner or the couple jointly.
If USCIS issued the NOID following the I-130 petition submission, then the petitioner who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident prepared and filed the I-130 should be the one who will respond to it. The immigrating beneficiary cannot reply to a NOID and I-130 petition, although he or she can assist the petitioning spouse is preparing a response.
If a couple filed a concurrent marriage-based adjustment application (with a Form I-130 and Form I-485) and received a NOID, it would usually do so after the marriage interview at a USCIS office.
However, USCIS can technically issue the NOID at any time, and in that case, both people will be responsible for responding jointly.
If you were issued the RFE, read through it carefully and make sure you don’t miss any vital information, including any additional documentation requested.
Even if you think that you’ve already submitted some of the requested information with your initial application, still be patient. It happens sometimes. When responding, try to provide a comprehensive answer by using concise and clear responses, and submit all of the requested evidence.
It’s essential to take care of the RFE as quickly and accurately as possible. Failure to do so may delay or harm the outcome.
The vital point of your response is a collection of evidence that will support your application. In the next part of this article, you will learn more about specific documents that will help you strengthen your application.
How to Collect Evidence and What Evidence Would Be Useful for the USCIS?
A most common complaint by USCIS is there is insufficient evidence of a shared life. This can include a lack of evidence to prove cohabitation or joint finances. Moreover, contradictory or adverse evidence from USCIS interviews or investigations can raise doubt about your marriage.
So, make sure this time that your RFE response includes any requested information or evidence that the USCIS officer asked and do not hesitate to have any other documents if you think that it will solidify your application. Be sure to include all information and evidence that the officer might need to make an informed decision.
If you received NOID, your situation is a bit more complicated since, unlike RFE, your NOIDS contains only a list of allegations made by USCIS. It means that you have to conclude what documents you satisfy USCIS to revoke the decision. Because of it, it would be good not to submit the response on your own, but rather to seek professional legal help.
One of our clients was issued with NOID alleging marriage fraud in a prior marriage. This situation wasn’t easy since USCIS doubted the current marriage because of a previous one that was terminated, where the couple also filed an I-130 and were denied, even though the couple had children.
In our response, we stated that the intention of establishing a life together at the time of marriage is crucial in determining whether the couple entered into the marriage in good faith.
The first time, USCIS denied the petition without the interview, so the couple never had a chance to answer an officer’s doubts. As firm evidence of their bona fide relationship, we included affidavits of various important actors in the couple’s life, including ex-partner’s testimony, happy anniversary, and birthday cards.
In the other case, the USCIS denied I-130 because it believed that the petitioner did not provide “adequate documentation to show that the beneficiary was free to marry.”
Our client did not give the U.S. Embassy any previous marriage documentation. Instead, he represented himself as such in order to obtain a tourist visa easier. However, USCIS couldn’t just conclude that the client wasn’t free to enter a new marriage without valid documentation and based only on words.
As in the previous case, here as well right affidavits and strong arguments stated by our lawyers, made the response more convincing and more effective.
As you can see, there are various, unpredictable situations that can occur, and USCIS has the power to decide solely and independently about each.
Therefore, if when you receive RFE or NOID, make sure to contact your lawyer immediately, so you do not miss the deadline to deliver a response and to have enough time to prepare all required documentation.
Remember, the more supporting and detailed information you can send, the better your chances of getting approval will become.
What is the Deadline for Responding to an RFE/NOID?
The deadline within which you have to respond to your RFE will be listed in itself. If you miss this date, your application may be denied due to abandonment or incomplete documentation.
This means that you need to carefully look at your RFE, prepare a response on your own, hire an immigration lawyer who will help you out, and make sure you don’t miss the deadline.
If you have filed an initial application but moved after that, it’s essential to notify the USCIS about it and provide them with your new mailing address so that any notice can be delivered to you. If you travel away from home for a long time and if it’s possible, it is always a good idea to have a forwarding address in the place, you will reside.
In the event of missing either of these steps, you will be likely to receive an RFE notification on the wrong address without being notified, which will result in missing the response deadline and losing a to respond appropriately.
The amount of time you get to respond to an RFE will mostly depend on the level of difficulty surrounding the request’s requirements. Usually, the deadline that most applicants get is somewhere between 30 and 84 days.
Remember that this is one of the most important aspects of responding to an RFE, to meet the specified deadline set out by USCIS, and not even a day later. Moreover, the sooner you can provide USCIS with the requested evidence, the better your chances of an accurate and effective response are.
Missing this deadline will lead you to the opportunity to file an appeal to reopen your application, but this is a step that should be avoided in any circumstances unless you encountered legit events that prevented you from responding promptly.
When it comes to the NOID, this notice will also include the time of how long you have to respond, which is usually 30 days. Here, you should know that there are three additional days for mailing besides this limit, considering the date highlighted on the NOID’s top.
Typically, this period is not flexible, which means that if you cannot gather all of the evidence on time, USCIS will eventually deny your case.
Having in mind the current situation due to the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS made some exceptions. It stated that if you receive a NOID dated between March 1 and September 11, 2020, you will be given some extra time. Accordingly, you can respond up to 60 calendar days after the response date outlined in your NOID.
In order to prevent a denial, we advise you to submit as much evidence as you have, no matter whether you consider some of it sufficient.
If there is some information that takes more time to get and this doesn’t depend on you, along with gathering evidence, attach a letter advising USCIS that you will supplement more information as soon as possible.
If you have any proof that you commenced collecting additional evidence that will support your application, provide it to the USCIS, as well. In this way, you will let USCIS know that you are waiting for the missing information and are serious about proving your bona fide marriage.