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Common Questions Answered About Requests for Evidence (RFEs)

Updated 16.05.24 8 minutes read
Business PlansImmigrationIndustry Insights

*The following information was taken from a Joorney webinar on the topic of RFEs, which featured expert guests Anthony DeLucia, RFE Supervising Attorney at Colombo & Hurd – Immigration Lawyers, and Flavia Santos, Supervising Attorney at Santos Lloyd. You can watch the webinar here

For applicants to any visa program managed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the paperwork process does not usually end with submitting the application. 

This is because of a tool frequently used by the agency to gather additional or missing information needed to better evaluate the application. Formally known as form I-797E but commonly referred to as Requests for Evidence (RFEs), they ask the recipient to supply necessary evidence to support various aspects of the details involved in the application.

Getting an RFE means that the USCIS needs more information before a decision can be made. The RFE itself is usually highly specific, pointing to exactly whatever evidence is missing. 

Bear in mind that an RFE can be triggered by any part of a visa application, including the supporting documents. USCIS can have questions about everything from the financial projections for a business to personnel hiring plans to the applicant’s financial status and more. 

RFEs come with deadlines, and meeting them with all the requested documentation is essential to moving any visa application forward. It’s possible that USCIS can ask for supporting information relevant to different parts of an application. 

Here are some answers to common questions about Requests for Evidence to help anyone who might have to answer them. 

Q: What Are the Chances I Get a Request for Evidence?

While we cannot say that everyone who files a U.S. visa application gets an RFE, they are extremely common, and you should not be surprised if you receive one. 

A visa application demands a lot of detailed information and it’s not unusual for applicants to misjudge the standard of proof that every claim and statement demands. 

For example, take the EB-2 NIW visa for “exceptional talents”. One of the documents involved is called an “Expert Opinion Letter”, which is used by an authority in the field to confirm the talents and skills of the applicant. A common mistake, which always results in an RFE, is failure to include supporting documentation of the status of the writer of the Expert Opinion Letter, confirming his or her authority to write such a recommendation. 

This is the level of detail that is expected throughout the visa application. It’s understandable if someone overlooks the need to document so many things but the high standard is the reason behind the fact that RFEs are so common. 

Q: Does Getting an RFE Mean the Application Was Rejected or Is Likely To Be Rejected?

No. It’s important to remember that getting an RFE does not mean that your application is going to be denied or is more likely to be denied than someone who does not receive an RFE. It simply means that USCIS cannot make a decision on the visa application based on the information it has at the moment. 

The only way that an RFE can negatively impact the chances of the visa application is if the applicant who receives it fails to answer it in time or answer it at all. 

RFEs come with explicit deadlines for compliance. If you don’t meet the deadline, USCIS will make a decision based on the information and documents it has already received from the applicant, which often means the application will be denied. After all, the entire reason for sending the RFE was the fact that some important information was missing. If it is still missing after the deadline passes, it’s hard to imagine a positive outcome. 

Q: How Can I Avoid RFEs? 

While there is no guaranteed way to avoid Requests for Evidence, there are things you can do as a visa applicant to minimize the chances of receiving one. 

USCIS visa instructions are comprehensive and precise, including all the documentation you must submit as evidence. Failure to include everything that is asked for is the surest way to trigger an RFE so follow the instructions carefully. 

Any claim you make relevant to the visa application must be supported by documented evidence. If you identify any claims in your application that are not supported by evidence, you should proactively supply them instead of waiting for an RFE. You can significantly reduce the necessary processing time for a visa application by supplying all needed documents at the time the application is first submitted. 

Consulting with an immigration professional or working with professional business plan writers can also minimize the chances of receiving an RFE since they are familiar with the practices and standards involved. 

Q: How Do I Respond to RFEs 

Clear instructions explaining how to reply are included with the RFE, along with the deadline for applying.

When responding, it’s a good idea to include a copy of the original RFE in your response, along with a cover letter explaining what the USCIS agent will find in the documentation you have submitted. Also, label each document with a name explaining what it is and which point in the RFE it addresses. 

If you happen to be dealing with documents that are not in English, be sure to provide translated copies by a certified translator along with documentation of the translator’s qualified professional status. 

Many applicants handle the response to the RFE themselves, but others prefer to consult third parties that specialize in answering Requests for Evidence. This could mean an immigration professional or services like those from Joorney. With an experienced team that has worked with many visa applicants, Joorney understands the level of documentation that is required and knows how to appropriately respond to USCIS inquiries regarding missing information in visa applications. Reach out to Joorney for more information to learn about how we can help. 

Q: What Happens if I Don’t Answer an RFE?

If you fail to respond to an RFE or submit your response after the deadline given, there are two paths forward, each ending with the same unfortunate result. 

Either the USCIS will assume the application has been abandoned and close it with a denial, or they will move forward with the case despite the missing information and close it with a denial. 

Understand that ignoring an RFE or responding too late ends the visa application process. 

If you have any other questions about RFEs or are in need of any business documentation to put together your RFE response, contact us today.

Joorney Business Plans is not a law firm nor an immigration consulting firm, and no information provided in this document should be considered as legal advice or recommendation regarding any immigration application program. All information provided in this document should be verified by a licensed or certified immigration professional before the reader can act on this information. As such, it is understood that Joorney Business Plans Inc. shall not be liable for any loss or damage of whatever nature (direct, indirect, consequential, or other), whether arising in contract, tort, or otherwise, which may arise as a result of your use of (or inability to use) this document, or from your use of (or failure to use) the information on this document.