Immigration application packets are a challenge to complete. Immigration law is complicated and there is always more to what the question on the form asks. In addition, determining which supporting documents are required can sometimes feel like solving a riddle. Here are few suggestions to get you through the process successfully:
- ANSWER THOUGHTFULLY
When answering questions on immigration forms, make sure that you spend time thinking about whether the question applies to you. For example, a question asking whether you have ever been arrested applies if you have not been arrested for a crime, but have been arrested for driving without a license. You can presume you have been arrested if you have been fingerprinted by the police or ridden in the back seat of a police car to the station.
- OBTAIN REQUIRED DOCUMENTS BEFORE FILING
If your application requires proof that you entered the U.S. with a visa, but you do not have proof of that, you should obtain that proof before you file your application. You can apply for a duplicate copy of your entry record with the application you are filing, in some cases.
- FIND OUT YOUR IMMIGRATION HISTORY
If you came into the U.S. without a visa, and was arrested or stopped by Border Patrol and released, you may have been placed in removal or deportation proceedings and will need to find out what happened in your removal or deportation proceedings before you file your application. It does not matter how long it has been since you were stopped or arrested.
- REVIEW COPIES OF PREVIOUS APPLICATIONS
The information you provided to the U.S. embassy in your country needs to be consistent with the information you provide on your application before the immigration agencies in the U.S. For example, if you told the U.S. embassy that you were married when you applied for your visa, you must list your spouse on your application, even if you are now separated. If you are no longer married, provide proof of what happened to that marriage. This principle of consistency applies also to applications previously filed with any immigration agency. It is critical that you keep copies of all applications you submit to any government agency related to your visa(s) and immigration status.
- INCLUDE ONLY BIOLOGICAL OR COURT-ADOPTED CHILDREN
List all your children on your application, whether they are in the U.S. or not, and regardless of whether they are married adults. If you are not sure of the whereabouts of a child, list them anyway and indicate that you do not know where they live, if that information is required. Only include biological or formally adopted children on your application. Do not list children for whom you do not have a formal adoption decree issued by a court. Immigration law does not recognize children claimed as the result of an informal child-rearing arrangement that did not involve a legal process.
- INCLUDE ALL REQUIRED, RELATED FORMS
Application instructions are very helpful, but do not always tell you what other forms you need to complete. Failure to complete all required forms for a particular benefit will result in delays and possible denials. So, for example, if you are filing for adjustment of status, but do not submit your sealed medical exam form, your application will be denied or a decision delayed until you provide the medical exam form.
- INCLUDE CERTIFIED COPIES
If the form asks whether you have been arrested or convicted, you must provide a certified copy of the court or arrest record. Expunging your record with the criminal court will create a challenge for you if you need to provide certified copies with an application. Expunged records are usually destroyed or sealed. Therefore, get at least two certified copies of your arrest or court record before you file for expungement. If you are divorced and petitioning for a new spouse, you must provide certified copies of your divorce decree or the death certificate of your previous spouse.
- ATTEND BIOMETRICS APPOINTMENT
After filing most immigration applications, you will receive an appointment to be fingerprinted or will be notified that you do not need to be fingerprinted. Attend your biometrics appointment if one is scheduled! Failure to do so can lead to the denial of your application. If you cannot attend the appointment, reschedule it before the appointment date. The instructions for rescheduling are on the form. If you will be traveling after submitting your application, make sure someone can open and send you any mail from USCIS.
- PROVIDE COMPLETE ADDRESS
Double-check your address on the application to ensure that it is correct. Common errors include leaving out the apartment or floor number, failing to spell the street or city correctly, or providing an incorrect zip code, especially if the address is new.
- UPDATE ADDRESS CHANGES
It is not enough to change your address with the post office. Some mail will not be forwarded. Change your address with USCIS if you move after you file your application or you will miss important communication, including your interview notice. If you fail to attend a required interview, your application will be denied. In addition, most non-citizens are required to provide address changes to USCIS within 10 days of moving, whether or not they have an application pending.