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 people, 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 the 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 is confident of his grasp of U.S. immigration matters, can jeopardize your future of staying 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 denial of the application or imputation on an applicant fraud and false misrepresentation that can be a basis for removal proceedings.
Mistakes can also 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 twice the filing and legal fees.
What about lost opportunities of the moment? What if the marriage has soured after one year, and the application for green card and work permit is denied due to a mistake in the filing of the affidavit of support?
In one case, Sheryl, an alien-spouse of a U.S. 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an updated Form I-693 (record of medical examination and vaccination) because the original medical exam submitted was “outdated.”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.
Because a response to a RFE is usually deemed as the final submission by the applicant of the requested document, USCIS does not require the submission of another Form I-693 and considers the submitted form “non-compliant.” Sheryl is unable to prove admissibility on health-related grounds, a justification for the denial of the application.
In another case a nurse, Linda and her family initially entered the U.S. as tourists. Luckily, they became holders of H1B and H4 visas, petitioned by a U.S. employer, and their lawful permanent residence status processed.
The USCIS officer noticed 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 who perhaps absent-mindedly typed a wrong date. It requires sworn statements and supporting documentation to erase the doubt that Linda might 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 still another case, U.S. citizen Felix petitioned his minor son Gary who was then 20 years old. Felix could avail himself 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 would be immediately available.
Unfortunately, Felix wrote a wrong birth date (one year earlier), making the son 21 years old when the petition was filed. USCIS refused to amend the date despite 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 birth date. At the time it was approved, the classification was that of a child of a U.S. citizen, over and above 21 years old, and this changed the waiting period to 13 long years!
Take extra care in filling out those USCIS forms.