WYRWTK | Episode #22 | What are our top 10 tips to avoid processing delays when filing immigration applications?
To answer your question today, I will walk you through some simple actions that you can take to avoid the most common reasons that applications get delayed. None of these tips are a substitute for an experienced immigration attorney, which leads me to, Tip:
#1. Hire an experienced immigration attorney. There is just no substitute for professional help here. The attorneys at The Shapiro Law Firm, LLC have over 16 year of experience, and we work hard to ensure that every single application is complete and accurate to give you the best chance of obtaining an approval without any unnecessary delay.
#2. Download the correct form edition from the USCIS website. The website that you can find every single is USCIS.gov/forms. And I will put this on our website under the video so you can see, this is a screenshot of the website, to give you an idea of what I am talking about. This one right here is for an I-130, Petition for an Alien Relative, and what I highlighted (although you may not be able to read it in the video, on the website you can), highlighted what says, “form,” the “instructions,” “edition date,” “where to file,” “filing fee,” and evidence checklist, and I am going to be referring to some of the things on here that I have highlighted while I go through the tips.
So after you download the form that you need to fill out, you need to make sure that it is the correct form, especially if you try googling the form instead of going to the actual website. This is page 1 of the Petition for Alien Relative:
On the bottom what I have highlighted is a date. This is the “edition date,” and it should match the "edition date” on the USCIS website for that form. A lot of times, there will be outdated editions that USCIS is no longer accepting. If you send in an old edition, your form will either be rejected outright or they will take it, deposit your filing fee check, and then a few weeks, a few months later, they will send it back to you saying you used the wrong form. Sometimes they just deny it as well. So the first thing you need to do is make sure you fill out the right form.
#3. Once you have the correct form edition, download the instructions, that is on the same page (so the top link will usually be the form, the link right below will be the instructions for the form). Make sure you understand each and every question that you are answering, and the first place to look for guidance will be on these instructions. And make sure that the question that you are answering is applicable to you, because these are general forms that often apply to multiple categories or for multiple types of immigration benefits. Do not fill out areas of the form that do not apply to you. Even checking the wrong box for the wrong category can end up resulting in delay or denial.
#4. Make sure you submit all of the required evidence. The list of evidence can also be found in the instructions. Sometimes, for certain forms USCIS provides a checklist of evidence. Do not just rely on this checklist though. Make sure to cross check it with the evidence on the instructions. And this is crucial because failure to submit exactly what is required is one of the biggest reasons get delayed and ultimately denied.
#5. If your form requires a filing fee, make sure you pay the correct filing fee and that you write the check or money order out to the correct place. Filing fees can change without notice, so you need to check the webpage for the correct fee, it is not just on the instructions, you actually check the webpage and this will also tell you who to write check out to.
#6. Organize all of the applications and evidence in a logical order with a cover letter and exhibit list. I always put the cover letter first, followed by the applications, followed by the exhibit list, which will describe every single piece of evidence that is in there, followed by all of the evidence in that order. Remember, USCIS receives thousands of applications every day. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to confirm that you submitted everything that is required. When they first receive your application, they literally go through a checklist and check off and go, “ok, they have your birth certificate, I have your passport, I have your passport photos, I have your filing fee check.” If you are missing even a single page of the application or a single piece of evidence, your application is going to go from the “ok” pile to the “reject, deny or incomplete” pile. You do not want to be in the “reject, deny or incomplete” pile. This pile = delay!
#7. Make a copy of every single page that you send to USCIS. You will not have anything returned to you. You will need copies in case USCIS claims you never sent it or if you want to review your applications or any of the evidence before your interview, if an interview is going to be required. On this note, do not send any originals unless you are required to do so! Again, you are not going to get it back. If you are not sure if an original is required, check the instructions for that form. You can also call the USCIS customer service # and ask a representative if the original is required.
#8. Confirm that the mailing address is correct. This address can also be found on the same webpage where you get the form. I always double check the mailing address the day I am mailing out an application. USCIS will not forward it to the correct address. Instead, it will be rejected and returned to you weeks or months letter, causing an unnecessary delay! If you are applying for an immigration benefit that requires more than one form, check the mailing instructions for both forms to see where to send them. And this, like the filing fee, can change without notice.
#9. Check the filing time periods for the immigration benefit you are seeking and make sure you file in this time period, not too early and not too late. Under the immigration law, your application is not considered filed until it is received by USCIS. If your application is due May 3, and you mail it out May 3, then it will be late. If you are filing for a benefit that requires you to wait for a certain period of time, like for the 5 years needed as a lawful permanent resident to be eligible for citizenship, do not file it early! You will not just waste time, but they are usually take your filing fee check, deposit it and then deny it months later.
#10. Double, triple, quadruple check everything! Even a simple spelling mistake or switching two #s in your social security number can create delays and even bigger problems down the road. And make sure when you are double-checking, that you are double-checking that you signed in the write spot and that you put the date that you signed in the right spot!
Many of these tips may seem obvious, but if you are not used to submitting forms like this, it is easy to overlook these simple tasks that can have a huge impact on how long it takes to process your application.
Finally, a bonus tip. I drafted this list of tips in about 5 minutes because I handle these filings every single day and I know exactly what needs to be filed and what mistakes to look for. There is simply no substitute for an experienced immigration attorney. Many clients come to us after trying to file by themselves to save some money, and for the most part, when this happens and a problem or mistake is made, it ends up costing them more overall for us to fix the problems or assist them in re-filing everything from scratch. And sometimes, the problem cannot be fixed.
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