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Common Self-Filing US Immigration Mistakes

Between October 2020 and September 2021, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received over 9 million applications, petitions, and requests. During that same period, USCIS processed and completed only 7.2 million submissions.  Average processing times vary widely based on a number of factors, including the type of form being submitted. It can take anywhere from a few months to two years for an immigration application to be processed by USCIS. In July 2023, 53,278 applications were denied, which is 10% of the processed submissions. Many of these denials are due to mistakes in US immigration applications.

All of this is to say that getting your application right the first time is important and will save you a tremendous amount of time and stress. Meeting USCIS requirements is not easy when you’re self-filing, though. It is always a good idea to consult with an immigration attorney to ensure regulations are met, and procedures are completed properly, and knowing what some common self-filing pitfalls are can help you avoid them.

Failing to Send in All Necessary Documents is the #1 Most Common US Immigration Mistake

Missing documnets is one of the most common us immigration mistakes, because many applicants believe the form itself is all that’s required. In most cases, there are various supporting documents that must be submitted along with the application or petition. You may need to include copies of birth certificates, naturalization certificates, bank accounts, housing leases, marriage certificates, employment records, or adoption decrees to prove that you are eligible. In addition, some USCIS forms require that additional forms accompany them; for example, Form I-130 for a spouse must be accompanied by Form I-130A.

Forgetting to Sign the Application

After spending so much time and effort on filling out the application and ensuring all the necessary supporting documentation is included, some people are so eager to submit the forms that they forget to sign. Your signature certifies that all the information provided in your application is complete, true, and correct and that all included supporting documents are unaltered copies of original documents. By signing, you also authorize USCIS to release information to others as necessary. If you do not sign the application, your application will be returned to you or denied.

US Immigration Mistakes: Sending the Application to the Wrong Address

There are multiple USCIS offices, and all applications do not go to the same location. The application itself may list the location to send the completed form, but if you’re using an older version of the form, the address may be wrong. Always double-check on the USCIS website to ensure you have the current office address.

Paying the Incorrect Filing Fee

USCIS filing fees include a broad range of prices; there isn’t one universal application fee. If you submit a payment that is too little or too much, your application will not be processed. The USCIS website includes the most recent filing fee schedule, which includes all forms and their required payments. As of August 2023, filing fees for the below forms are as follows:

  • I-130, Petition for Alien Relative: $535
  • I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status: $370
  • I-765, Application for Employment Authorization: $410
  • I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status: $50

The fees range significantly, and some forms require an additional biometrics fee to be included with the application. The safest way to ensure you include the correct fee is to speak with an immigration lawyer or check the USCIS website for the most current information.

Not Following Each Application Requirements

In addition to the major requirements like filing fees and supporting documentation, USCIS also has other preferences for submissions that they strictly enforce. Handwritten forms can only be completed with black ink. If you make a mistake, do not try to write over it, mark it out, or use liquid correction fluid to fix the mistake. Instead, just start over with a new form. Application packets can include many pages of documents, but USCIS does not want the pages submitted in a way that prevents easy disassembly. Specifically, do not use heavy-duty staples or include your application in a binder that makes it difficult for USCIS to access and scan the pages.

US Immigration Mistake of Not Updating Contact Information

Sometimes USCIS will reach out to you if you forget to include something or if they have a question about your application. It is crucial that your current contact information is updated in their system. This includes your mailing address, physical address, and phone number. If they attempt to contact you about your application and cannot reach you, they will deny your request.

Not Providing Translation of Documents

Many of the documents you are required to include with your request may be in a language other than English. If your marriage certificate, birth certificate, or other supporting documents are not in English, you must have them translated and include a certificate from the translator. All documents submitted to USCIS must be in English, but many applicants do not realize this requirement when their original documents are from a country in which English is not the native language. The translation does not need to be completed by a certified translator; you can use a friend or relative with appropriate bilingual and translation skills. However, a certification that the translator is competent and that the translation is true and accurate must be included with the translated document.

Avoid Costly US Immigration Mistakes and Long Delays by Hiring an Experienced Immigration Attorney

With so much at stake, many immigration applicants do not want to risk having their forms returned or denied because of a mistake that could have been avoided. Working with an immigration attorney ensures that no requirements are overlooked and no document is forgotten. The legal team at Boyer Law Firm can help you complete and file your paperwork while meeting strict USCIS requirements and deadlines. Francis Boyer is a specialist in international law and has successfully served immigration clients locally and abroad. To schedule a consultation or inquire about services, call the Miami office at +1 305-921-9665 or complete our contact form to send us a message.

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