In September 2018, USCIS changed one of its policies and now can deny your application for making mistakes on your paperwork.
Before then, if there was an issue with your application, they could reject the file and return it to you. You would then fix whatever they asked for and resubmit it. If USCIS accepted your application instead, but upon review, it determined it was missing something (a simple “x”, wrong fee, a photo missing, wrong birth certificate, not enough income, wrong or insufficient evidence, no evidence, etc.), USCIS would issue a Request for Evidence (RFE). This notice would explain what they need from you before they continue to work on your case.
That policy encouraged immigration officers to issue an RFE. Under the 2018 policy, the officer could choose to deny your application instead of issuing an RFE giving you a chance to correct it. The most current policies actually encourage the officer to outright deny any application deemed to have errors, omissions, or documentary problems. This came about the same time, USCIS removed the word “service” from its mission statement and became a quasi-enforcement agency. Do you still trust them to do the right thing and not penalize you? Do you still hope they will reject it from the beginning so you can fix the issue and not have to pay twice?
A rejected or denied application can lead to huge delays in gaining the immigration benefit you are seeking, cost a lot of money, and in more and more cases, lead to removal (used to be called deportation). Why more and more? Because this policy above, coupled with another that states “anyone not reverting to lawful status at the time of denial shall be placed in removal proceedings” really leaves no alternative. If denied, in most cases you cannot just file again…Can you afford those mistakes?
If the answer is NO, then hire an immigration attorney. I will not go here into the pros and cons or hiring an attorney, but unless you also perform surgery on yourself, you might want to consider a professional. Our office has application packages you will not find at another law firm, and as a result we help people from all walks of life. So if your application is filled out correctly, all proper evidence and fees have been included, the package has been properly put together and you sent it to the right place, chances are you will avoid a rejection. But will you avoid an outright denial?
By now you probably think that if you can read instructions and fill out forms you will be ok. Maybe. But that is not what this article is about.
The #1 mistake that can KILL your immigration application is LYING. Yes, lying. Or perceived lying.
While you fill out your application you may be tempted to leave out certain things, like a marriage back home, your ex-spouse’s children, an address where you lived for only a month, an employer who paid you cash, that one day 20 years ago when you overstayed your visa by a day, you “forgot” that you applied for a tourist visa five times before and said you were never denied, etc.…and the temptation is there. USCIS hopes you will do just that, and that can create more problems than the problem you are lying about. It ruins your credibility, and when you are going to try to convince your immigration judge that you should be allowed to stay, the first thing he or she will consider is whether you have been telling the truth all along. After all, “if you lied before, you would lie again”.
Under INA section 212(a)(6)C(i), misrepresentation or fraud is a ground of inadmissibility and your problem just became worse, as now you have to address the initial lie and the fact that now you cannot get a green card or cannot reenter the United States even if you are a permanent resident. Depending on the type or number of misrepresentations, a waiver (forgiveness) of this inadmissibility ground may or may not be available.
If you do not understand each and every single word on the application, or cannot answer a question without hiding something, see an experienced immigration lawyer to determine how to be truthful in such a way that you don’t risk being denied or at least how to minimize the damage.