USCIS says don’t submit original documents

USCIS says don’t submit original documents

On January 4, 2016, the USCIS announced that people should NOT submit original documents (such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, photographs, naturalization certificates, etc.) to USCIS with any application or petition unless:

  • the instructions for that form require you to submit original documents at the time of filing; or
  • after you file a petition or application, USCIS requests you to submit an original document through a Request for Evidence (RFE).

The reason for this change is that USCIS is moving away from a paper-based filing or record-keeping system to an electronic-based format. Even if a person files an application or petition on paper, it will be scanned by USCIS, and it is likely USCIS will shred your paper-based petition or application. Therefore, you should not be submitting original documents (especially photographs and naturalization certificates) unless USCIS specifically requires it, as they may shred or destroy the originals.

If you are going to submit copies, make sure they are true and correct copies of actual original documents – not copies of documents obtained from Recto Street.

It is always a good idea for people:

  • To keep all their immigration papers in a safe and secure place. Many people have come to me for consultations about petitions or denials from years ago. When I ask to look at those petitions or denials, they tell me they “lost” or misplaced them, as they have moved numerous times and lost track of the documents, etc. Some of the governmental agencies, such as the Department of Labor, announced they have shredded all of their old records, such that you cannot even go request the DOL for copies of old labor certifications, etc.
  • Make copies of anything and everything you mail to or file with USCIS. Again, some people consulted with me, and say they had filed “something” with the USCIS long ago, but cannot recall what it was. They also did not make a copy before mailing or filing that document with USCIS.
  • Don’t submit anything to USCIS by regular mail. If you are going to submit or file anything with USCIS, do so by certified mail or overnight delivery, so you are able to track the package, and ensure it was delivered. If you send it by regular mail, you really have no way of knowing whether it was actually delivered on time or at all, unless you get a later acknowledgment from USCIS. But what happen if you mail the package by regular mail and it never arrived? The case could get denied. But if it is sent certified or overnight delivery, at least you can track delivery.

Many people want to save money (who doesn’t?), and attempt to file petitions or applications on their own. While USCIS provides guidelines or list of certain documents to submit, in many cases, additional documents and proof is necessary to establish a person’s eligibility for the immigration benefit sought. In marriage cases, sometimes extensive evidence is required to establish it as a bona fide, good faith relationship. If a child is born out of wedlock, sometimes extensive evidence is required for the father to get a case approved for his out of wedlock child. If a case was previously denied, a re-filing will similarly require a much stronger showing of eligibility.

That is why you may want to seek the advice and assistance of an attorney. While that may not “guarantee” approval, it could greatly increase your chances for success, as your case could be properly packaged and presented according to USCIS’s instructions, guidelines, criteria, and factors.

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