With the Request for Evidence (RFE) rates on the rise, it’s more important than ever to understand RFEs and how to address them.
RFEs can leave you feeling uneasy, but don’t worry too much: an RFE is not a denial. USCIS issues an RFE when they need additional information before making a final decision.
In this post, we’ll cover the basics, and what to do so you can confidently address an RFE.
Everything You Need to Know About Requests for Evidence (RFEs)
Receiving a Request for Evidence (RFE) for your work visa or green card petition can feel scary. However, RFEs are a normal part of the immigration process and do not necessarily indicate that your case is weak or will be denied.
An RFE is simply what the name indicates: a request for additional evidence to help the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) understand how you qualify for the petition you applied for.
What is an RFE?
First things first, a Request for Evidence (RFE) is not a denial, and it does not indicate that your case will be denied.
An RFE is—as the name suggests—a request for some additional evidence to help USCIS understand how you meet the qualifications for the petition you applied for.
Immigration Attorney Farhana Nowrin says the following about RFEs: “RFEs are a normal part of the immigration process. Sometimes USCIS will issue an RFE simply because they need more information about how you meet the qualifying criteria, and other times, USCIS may issue an RFE to buy themselves more time to fully review your petition.”
“An RFE does not mean that your case was not prepared well. Sometimes USCIS will miss evidence that was provided in the original submission, and sometimes they will request evidence that isn’t within the scope of the immigration regulation. Because of this, RFEs are always a possibility even for the strongest petitions.”
Regardless of the reason an RFE was issued, USCIS will outline the specific documentation that they need from you and give you a deadline by which to submit that documentation.
How common are RFEs?
RFE rates vary greatly by case type. The most recent data from USCIS showed:
- 21.5% of individuals who applied for an O-1 work visa received an RFE
- 23.0% of individuals who applied for a TN work visa received an RFE
- 13.5% of individuals who applied for an H-1B work visa, after already getting approved in the H-1B lottery received an RFE
- 41.4% of individuals who applied for an L-1 work visa received an RFE
Possible reasons for an RFE
There are many reasons your case could receive an RFE, but the good news is that USCIS will always explain exactly what additional evidence is needed to get your case approved.
In your RFE there may be only one request or numerous requests. It is not uncommon for USCIS to issue what is commonly known as a “blanket RFE”. In a blanket RFE, USCIS requests additional evidence for every single criterion you applied for.
Here are some examples of reasons why you might get an RFE:
- You applied for an O-1A work visa and submitted evidence showing that you meet four of the eight O-1A criteria, including Critical Employment, Judging, Press, and High Remuneration. To get your O-1A approved, you need to meet at least three criteria. When reviewing your case, USCIS was convinced that you do indeed meet the Judging and Press criteria, however, they issued an RFE asking you to provide additional evidence related to the Critical Employment and High Remuneration criteria.
- You applied for a TN work visa to work as a Senior Software Developer at a startup in the U.S. The TN requires you to match your job title and job description with a specific occupation, and you selected ‘Engineer’ since it most closely matches your actual job. However, USCIS issued an RFE asking you to provide more information describing how each of your job duties align with the ‘Engineer’ occupation as defined by the TN criteria.
- You applied for an H-1B work visa, which requires you to demonstrate that a certain degree is required for the job you are applying for and that you have that degree. Although you submitted evidence that showed this, USCIS requests additional evidence to support how you meet this requirement.
- You applied for a new office L-1A work visa, and USCIS issued an RFE requesting additional evidence to show your U.S. company has a business license for the state where you’re establishing an office.
What to expect when you hear that you’ve received an RFE
You might see on USCIS’s case status tracker or hear from your attorney that your case received an RFE before you actually receive the RFE notice that outlines what USCIS is requesting.
You or your attorney should receive the actual RFE notice by fax or mail within a few days if you filed with premium processing, or longer if filed without premium processing.
The RFE notice will include the following:
- At the beginning of the RFE notice, USCIS will provide a deadline. This is the date by which USCIS must receive the response. This date is 90 days after the RFE was issued.
- Some information about how to respond to the RFE and how USCIS will adjudicate the RFE.
- Details about exactly what evidence USCIS is requesting that you provide. Depending on how much information USCIS is requesting, this could take up a paragraph or two, or a number of pages.
How to respond to an RFE
Immigration Attorney Farhana Nowrin suggests that you read through the RFE notice thoroughly as soon as you receive it, and set up a time with your immigration attorney to discuss the RFE strategy.
If your RFE is fairly straightforward, you may not need to meet with your attorney, however, it will likely be necessary to strategize with your attorney if you received a more complex RFE.
Farhana says: “Most immigration attorneys are familiar with the many types of requests USCIS makes in RFEs and how to respond to them. Because of this, it is important that you listen carefully to how your attorney interprets the RFE language and how they suggest you respond to it.”
“Some RFEs don’t require brand new evidence. Instead, your immigration attorney may write a memo answering USCIS’s questions and point USCIS to the existing evidence. Other RFEs may require you to gather a substantial amount of new evidence,” explains Farhana.
A typical RFE response includes the following:
- A copy of the RFE notice.
- A memo from your attorney that addresses each of the requests from USCIS.
- Any additional evidence that you are submitting.
You’ll need to mail the RFE to the USCIS address listed on the RFE notice. Once USCIS receives your RFE, they should update the case status tool online. If your visa petition was originally filed with premium processing, you’ll receive a response from the RFE within 15 calendar days. If your case was not filed with premium processing, processing times vary but should be less than 60 calendar days.
Although getting an approval right away is always ideal, receiving the news that USCIS has issued an RFE doesn’t need to feel scary. When you work with an experienced immigration team, you’ll be able to submit your immigration petition with confidence, even if you receive an RFE.
If you haven’t submitted a work visa or green card petition yet and would like to explore your options, connect with our team of business immigration experts.