When you receive the RFE, note the postmarked date on the front of the envelope and stamp or write the date received on the back of the envelope. Then, open the envelope and pull out the RFE. Check the date on the RFE to verify that it was sent within one day of the postmark. If not, you might be able to use it to buy a little bit of time. The RFE will usually give you 33 days from the date of the RFE to send back a response. It is important to count out those 33 days including weekends and note on your calendar the date the response is due back to the Service Center.
Make a copy of the RFE- Use the copy to mark up, highlight and or make notes on so that the original remains clean and keep the original with the blue cover sheet and return envelope with bar code.
Reading the RFE
Read through the RFE to get your first impression. Then go back through with a highlighter- marking the problem areas and taking careful note of what exactly it is that immigration is looking for.
Think about what the best evidence would be. For instance, some small businesses fail to document financials as well as they should, which can create problems when adjudicating an I-140 or an investor visa. Often immigration is looking for hard financial documents. If the business has employees, then it should have UCT-6's showing quarterly tax payments and issue w-2's. The employees should have pay stubs. If the employee needs to show past employment, then a signed letter of reference on letterhead with attached business card and prior taxes or pay stubs showing employment with that company. A business should have leases, copies of contracts, sales and purchase orders, stock certificates, and copies of corporate minutes. Immigration is looking for documents which clearly prove the case.
Sometimes businesses will have trouble producing great documentary evidence as their bookkeeping is not all together. They might be trying to hide money from taxes and run into trouble documenting sufficient income to pay a salary. They might be paying some of their employees cash as they are casual labor. The problem is, for immigration purposes where documents are needed to establish the facts, it can create challenges. For instance, USCIS was questioning the bona fides of a restaurant in part because there were so few employees. The owner gave us an organizational chart, which had few people on it. We ordered a delivery from the restaurant and when the driver showed up, his name wasn't on the chart. It turned out the owner had a team of college kids on call as delivery drivers who worked for cash and tips. For most businesses not a problem, for one trying to establish bona fides for immigration purposes- a big issue.
Researching the RFE
Usually, an RFE will cite Board of Immigration Appeals, (BIA); Administrative Appeals Office, (AAO); or Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA) Cases in addition to Supreme Court or Courts of Appeal cases. It is always worth reading what exactly those cases say as often they are being cited out of context by the government bureaucrat. The examiners seem to go to a database of headnotes and cite whatever seems to be on point but which when analysed, are not always on point. Many of these cases can be researched online. Links to the websites are provided below.
Assembling the Documents
As you gather the documentary evidence to support your response, assemble it in the order in which it appears in the RFE. Start fleshing out your letter, having it mirror the contents of the RFE so that you are sure you are really answering what is being asked. Have someone else look at the RFE and your response to see if there is something you have overlooked. Prepare an index of the documents you are submitting and make a two whole punch at the top. MAKE AN EXACT DUPLICATE COPY OF WHATEVER YOU ARE SUBMITTING! Put everything together with acco fasteners- the fastener with the two prongs that poke through and a bar with the little sliding clamps. Put the RFE and Blue paper on top. If it all fits into the envelope provided- send it back in that. If it doesn't then attach the envelope on top as it has a bar code. Send it via certified or priority mail. If you are on the last day of the deadline then send it via overnight mail. When you have proof of receipt, attach it to the file copy.