What is a Request for Evidence?
Request for Evidence, or RFE, is a letter in which the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asks for more information. In other words, the officer in charge of the case needs more documentation before making a decision. An officer may issue an RFE for multiple types of applications, including green card´s I-140, I-130, I-485, visa applications, and citizenship petitions.
How does an RFE look?
A Request for Evidence by USCIS is usually a pink letter. Indeed, the name “pink letter” is the colloquial way of calling this type of action. This letter has the official letterhead of the USCIS, the date, and the information about the petitioner/beneficiary and the case. Even though the color is typically pink, this type of request from USCIS may come in other colors, including yellow, blue, or white.
The structure of a Request for Evidence (RFE)
The structure of an RFE is simple and it follows the sections below:
Why – “Why We Are Writing You”
This is a concise paragraph describing the reason USCIS is reaching out. In my personal case, for example, the letter stated that USCIS was writing me because they needed more information on my I-485 submission. In this section, the government gave me no specifics about what they were looking for. However, that is exactly what the following section is about.
What – “What You Need To Do”
Following the Why comes the What. In this section of the RFE, USCIS specifically describes what documents they are looking for. For example, in my case, they clearly stated that they needed my Form I-693 (Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record). This was written under a bullet point, so I expect that if they were looking for more than one document they would be listed in separate bullet points.
When – ” When you Need To Do It”
Where – the address to return the documents
What does USCIS typically request in an RFE?
But like we said earlier, there are many reasons one could get a Request for Evidence letter:
- Incomplete documentation submitted to USCIS. For example, incomplete forms, or missing pages on a passport copy.
- Missing translations for documents. Documentation in foreign languages must be submitted with a translation endorsed by someone that can attest to their ability to speak both English and the language in the document. Failure to submit this translation may result in an RFE.
- Additional evidence to support the case. Take as an example an EB-2 NIW application in which the applicant claims that their endeavor is to provide training for young professionals in the development of microchips. The applicant may have established that this field is on national importance but they may have provided little evidence of their achievements in the field or ability to teach. In that case, the officer may consider that the second prong of NIW (the applicant is well positioned to advance the endeavor) was not properly fulfilled. This officer may choose to submit an RFE to request additional evidence and give the petitioner a chance to explain.
Request for Evidence (RFE) vs Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID)
While the RFE can be either bad news or neutral and even good news, the Notice of Intent to Deny is typically bad news for the applicant. Generally, receiving a NOID means that the officer thinks the case is not solid enough or there are too many missing pieces of evidence. The applicant has one chance to correct all the deficiencies listed by USCIS to salvage the case. A NOID may happen during an adjustment of status if the petitioner submits little or no documentation.
What to do when you receive the Request for Evidence
First, do not panic! The pink letter causes a lot of anxiety but, as we discussed above, there are many reasons why you could get one. Remember that not all pink letters are negative.
Second, read the letter carefully. In fact, read it a few times to make sure you understand what the request is. Whenever possible, share the letter with a friend, relative, or colleague to get a second opinion. This will help you make sure you fully comprehend the content of the RFE.
Third, note the deadline listed in the letter. You need to make sure you can produce the evidence USCIS request at least one week in advance. Give plenty of time to shipping to avoid any last-minute disaster!
Fourth, prepare your response.
How to draft a response to a Request for Evidence (RFE)
A real response to RFE example that you can use
Responses to RFEs can be straightforward. Here I provide a sample response letter that you can use as a reference. This is actually the letter I used to reply to a real RFE I received for my case.
First, have your name, and address at the very top, followed by the USCIS address information. You can find this address on the pink letter.
Then list the reason for the response (for example, RE: Oscar LastName I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status¨). Next, indicate your full name again, your USCIS number (also called A number), and your receipt number (in my case it started by MSC).
All this basic information will help the USCIS officer quickly understand the reason for your letter. When you are done with this, write the main message of the letter under “To Whom It May Concern”. In this section, you want to indicate to the officer what documents you are enclosing. The first one will be the original pink letter with the RFE you received. Submit the original and not a copy of it! Then list any documentation you are providing as evidence to fulfill the officer’s request.
Finally, write a thank you statement and provide an offer to contact you should they have further questions.
Last but not least, do not forget to print your name at the very bottom and sign your letter with ink.
Proofread, correct and keep a copy for your records
After you are done writing this letter, make sure to read it a few times to detect and correct any mistakes. Additionally, double or triple check you have all the documents that need to be attached. USCIS does not allow multiple responses to RFE. They will only consider the first response you submit, so you want to make sure it is complete.
A good practice is to copy your full response, including a cover letter and attachments. Keep this with the tracking number for the mail as part of your records. This is your evidence that you submitted everything on time.
Common mistakes when responding to RFE
- Not enclosing the original pink letter. This is always written in the Request for Evidence Letter and should not be overlooked.
- Forgetting one or more documents that USCIS asked for. USCIS does not accept more than one response to an RFE. If you forget something in your response, you may be putting your case at risk.
- Mailing the response too close to the deadline. You cannot control what can happen to the shipment, so it is better to submit your response way in advance to avoid surprises or simply to react to incidents.
- Not keeping a full copy of the response. It is always good practice to keep a copy of everything you send to USCIS. Remember that as a general rule USCIS will not return any documents to you.
- Not requesting a tracking number for the response letter. If you have tracking information, you will have proof that USCIS received your response.