In my practice I believe that the processing of most immigration petitions is divided into three main areas. There is the initial acceptance, prima facie review, and the final processing. In this article I will briefly discuss these three main areas for processing and provide some tips on how best to respond to Immigration.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, (USCIS) usually sends an applicant a fee receipt after the receipt of an application and the appropriate fees. There have been rare cases when USCIS has failed to send out a fee receipt. Once USCIS receives an application this is the receipt process. It is important to know that at this point the USCIS has made no determination on the merits of an applicant’s application. It is a common misconception that if USCIS accepts an application that the application will be approved. At the initial stage all applications are sent in bulk to the service center. The service center’s job is simply to verify that the applicant’s application is timely and that the requisite supporting documents and fees are included. This is the initial acceptance stage. At this stage it is very rare that an applicant’s application will be reviewed in detail to determine if the application will be approved or denied.
The second stage is the prima facie review. Prima facie is Latin for “at first view.” It is used in modern legal English to signify that on first examination, a matter appears to be self-evident from the facts. At this stage USCIS’s personnel will review the application to ensure that the applicant has filed the correct application that is in keeping with the applicant’s goal. In addition, USCIS’ personnel will review the application to ensure that the applicant has met the basic requirements to establish eligibility to file the application. If the applicant has filed the incorrect application then USCIS will send a denial letter or a rejection notice.
The third stage is the final processing stage. At this time the applicant’s file has been assigned to an adjudicating officer to review or an appointment has been scheduled to interview the applicant. It is usually at this stage that an applicant will receive USCIS’ request for evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny letter. In either case an applicant must exercise caution in replying to USCIS’ request. At this stage the applicant has demonstrated prima facie eligibility but the USCIS’ officer is in need of additional documentation in order to make a final decision on the applicant’s application. In situations where additional documentation is needed, USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence to the Applicant. The Request for Evidence is usually very specific in its request and it is time sensitive. USCIS will usually impose a 30 day, 60 day or 87 day deadline depending on the applicant’s specific case. All responses to USCIS’ Request for Evidence should be detailed, timely and address all of USCIS’ requests as indicated in USCIS’ letter. USCIS must receive all responses on or before the imposed deadline. Consequently, depending on the deadline, an applicant may need to send his or her response to USCIS via express mail, certified mail with return receipt or courier delivery. Under no circumstances should an applicant send his/her request to USCIS via first class mail. If USCIS receives an applicant’s response after the deadline this is grounds for a denial. Likewise if USCIS receives an incomplete response this is also grounds for a denial.
In the final stage of processing, USCIS may also send the applicant a Notice of Intent to Dent letter. At this stage USCIS has reviewed the applicant’s application and has made a determination that the applicant’s case will be denied unless the applicant can come forward with clear and convincing evidence that the applicant is actually eligible to receive an approval. In situation where USCIS has issued this letter it is simply not enough to provide USCIS with additional documents. At this juncture, in addition to providing additional documentation to USCIS, the applicant must provide documentation to overcome USCIS’ presumption that his/her case must be denied.
In both instances with USCIS’ Request for Evidence and USCIS’ Notice of Intent to Deny, it is important to provide a timely and thorough response that addresses all the issues raised by USCIS. Finally, it is important to retain a complete copy of all documentation that is sent and received by USCIS. In cases where the facts are complicated and/or an applicant is not able to provide the requisite documents it is best to seek legal counsel.
Disclaimer: This article is provided as a public service and is not intended to establish an attorney client relationship. Any reliance on the information contained herein is taken at your own risk. The information provided in this article should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.
About the Writer:Safiya Byars is a native of Jamaica and an attorney in Decatur, Georgia. Her firm is located at 160 Clairemont Avenue, Ste. 200, Decatur, Georgia 30030. Safiya Byars has served as the senior immigration attorney with boutique immigration firms in both Alabama and Georgia. Her firm handles all Immigration Matters, Deportation, Domestic Relations, Criminal Defense, Business Formation and Litigation, Landlord/Tenant and Wills/Probate/Trusts. To discuss your case, please contact Attorney Byars at 404-992-6506 or 678-954-5809 or via email.