To avoid common mistakes when preparing and filing your immigration forms, read this guide!
Consider hiring an attorney or at the very least consult with one.
Immigration laws are complex - from determining eligibility to file, when and where to file, what form to use and how much to pay for the filing fee, understanding the process, and the timeframes involved, it is very easy to make a serious mistake that can result in a denial. Many immigration law attorneys offer free initial consultation; take advantage of it! Hire an immigration attorney if your budget permits - many attorneys offer payment plan options, sliding scale reduced fees depending on income, and credit cards. Another approach is to hire an immigration attorney for a brief consultation and to review your paperwork for a small fee before you file. It can make the world of difference between approval or disaster.
Read very carefully the form instructions.
You simply cannot skimp on this step at all. In fact, read the instructions at least three (3) times. While some immigration forms are easier to complete than others, some immigration forms have pages and pages of instructions. It is wise to mark through or highlight the sections in the instructions that apply to you. You also want to make sure you know exactly which instructions apply to you; for instance, if you are filing for an immigration benefit as a spouse of a US citizen, do not follow the instructions meant for siblings of US citizens. As for the actual questions, make sure to answer correctly and exactly as the instructions tell you to. For instance, if the question asks information for your current spouse and you are not married and to skip that section, then you skip it. If you do not understand the questions, the forms, or the instructions, see step 1 above.
Gather all supporting documentation required.
Again, you read the instructions at least three (3) times, right? You saw the section regarding documents required to be attached to your form? Good! Make sure all documentation is legible, clear, and if in a foreign language, a certified English translation of the document must be attached. Don't expect the immigration officer to translate that document for you - that's not his or her job. And please do not EVER send your original documents! I've had clients come to me after they've already sent their only original marriage certificate only to discover after a natural disaster, they cannot obtain another one. The burden is on you to provide the requested documentation. If you fail to attach the required documentation, USCIS can either deny your requested relief or issue a request for evidence (a pain to deal with because you've got to respond by sending in the requested documentation by a short deadline or risk denial).
Keep a Hard Copy and Digital Copy of Your Form Packet
So you've completed the forms, signed them, gathered and attached all documentation, determined where to file the packet and you're ready to mail it out. Make sure before you send it away to USCIS, make a complete hard copy of the packet for your records and keep in a safe place. And don't forget to scan and email the entire packet to yourself and keep a digital copy of the entire packet on a computer or backup hard drive in case the packet gets lost in transit (hey, it happens).
As for mailing your forms and supporting evidence, double check if you have the correct address where it is supposed to be sent. The form instructions will tell you the proper mailing address; the address can vary depending on the form you are filing, your state of residence, etc. If you are filing for more than one applicant, you should mail the immigration packets separately for each applicant. Here's an easy example: let's say you and your spouse wish to file the N-400 so both of you can apply for your U.S. citizenship. To avoid confusing the USCIS mailroom, you should send each packet separately and mail each packet certified mail or at the very least with signature confirmation. If you make the mistake mailing both of your N-400 packets together in one stuffed envelope to save on costs, the mailroom may not realize there are two form packets in there. Thus, one form may be processed while the other sits on someone's desk unprocessed until hopefully someone notices so.
Additional resources provided by the author
Follow these simple steps and hopefully, you are that much closer to achieving your dream in America!
Our Rating is calculated using information the lawyer has included on
their profile in addition to the information we collect from state
bar associations and other organizations that license legal
professionals. Attorneys who claim their profiles and provide Avvo
with more information tend to have a higher rating than those who do
What determines Avvo Rating?
Experience & background
Years licensed, work experience, education
Legal community recognition
Peer endorsements, associations, awards
Legal thought leadership
Publications, speaking engagements
This lawyer was disciplined by a state licensing authority in .
Disciplinary information may not be comprehensive, or updated. We recommend that you always check a lawyer's disciplinary status with their respective state bar association before hiring them.