Care in filling out USCIS forms

Application forms to petition a relative, obtain a green card, a work permit, travel abroad or study in the U.S. may appear easy to fill out.  The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) ensures that such forms can be understood and completed by  you , who need not be experts in  US immigration laws.  However, the best of us may not know how to respond to each and every question in those forms.   Human error, an honest mistake or erroneous assumptions of what to write will not be taken lightly by USCIS.  At times, an erroneous advice from a notario or paralegal who are confident of their grasp of US immigration matters, can jeopardize your future of remaining in the US.   Biased as it sounds, it is always best to seek legal assistance from an immigration attorney.   Inadvertent mistakes made in the forms can have dire consequences.  Such as, the denial of the application or impute upon an applicant fraud and false misrepresentation that can be a basis for removal proceedings.  Mistakes can prolong the waiting time for visa availability.  While erroneous entries can be corrected by  re-filing  the application one cannot avoid the huge expense of paying the filing and legal fees twice.  What about lost opportunities of the moment?  What if the marriage has soured after a year and the applications for the green card and work permit is denied due to a mistake in the filing of the Affidavit of Support?

In one case, Sheryl, the alien-spouse of a US citizen was required, by way of a “Request for Evidence” (RFE), to submit an updated Form I-693 (Record of Medical Examination and Vaccination) because the original medical exam submitted was ‘outdated’.  Upon submission of the updated Form I-693, it was discovered that the civil surgeon failed to completely fill out the form, leaving blank spaces therein.  Since a response to a RFE is usually deemed as the final submission by the applicant of the requested document, USCIS will not require another Form I-693 and would consider the submitted form  ‘non-compliant’ and  unable to prove  admissibility on health-related grounds,  a justification for the  denial of the application.

In another case a nurse, Linda together with her family initially entered the US as tourists.  Luckily, they became holders of H1B and H4 visas, petitioned by the US employer and their lawful permanent residence status processed.  The USCIS officer noticed some discrepancy in Linda’s immigration records.  Her employer’s initial application for labor certification listed the starting date of employment when she was still holding a tourist visa.  Since a tourist is never allowed to work in the U.S., Linda is asked to explain the violation.  The only reason for it is inadvertence on the part of her employer  –  perhaps  absent-mindedly typing a wrong date.  It will require sworn statements and supporting documentation to erase the doubt that Linda would have violated the rule not to seek employment while on a visitor’s visa.  If USCIS is not convinced, the application for green cards could be denied.

In a third case, US citizen Felix   petitioned his minor son Gary who was then 20 years old.  Felix could avail of the benefits of the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) wherein the date of the filing of the petition  “freezes” the age of the child at 20 years old despite the lapse of time it takes the USCIS to adjudicate the petition. As such, upon approval of the petition, Gary’s visa will be immediately available.  Unfortunately, Felix  wrote a wrong birthdate (one year earlier),  making the son 21 years old when the petition was filed.  USCIS refused to amend the date despite the clear showing in the birth certificate and other evidence already on record that the son was then 20.  USCIS totally ignored the plea to have it changed to the actual birthdate.  At the time it was approved, the classification was that of a child of a US citizen, over and above 21 years old, which changes the waiting period to 13 long years!  Need I say more?  Take extra care in filling out those USCIS forms.

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Maria Rita Reyes-Stuby is a licensed attorney in Michigan.  She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law. She specializes in immigration and practices in Las Vegas, Michigan, California and other states.  Bernadette Bretana, a graduate of the Ateneo Law School and Ms. Stuby are licensed attorneys in the Philippines. Please call @702-403-4704 or email her at [email protected] or go to for any questions on this article.

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