Are you getting ready to prepare an immigration form for you or a relative? In most cases you can do it by yourself without the aid of an immigration lawyer. But an inaccurate or carelessly answered question can delay an application or result in a denial. Likewise, a poorly prepared application packet can cause unnecessary delays and trigger additional questions. In fact, certain mistakes when preparing USCIS immigration forms can potentially tarnish the person’s immigration record forever.
In the fiscal year 2019, USCIS rejected nearly 9.7% of the 7.7 million applications filed at lockbox facilities. That’s over 742,000 applications rejected! Here are some helpful tips for preparing USCIS immigration applications and petitions:
Answer All Questions When Preparing USCIS Immigration Forms
First of all, answer every question honestly. Even small deviations in the truth can create problems for you if USCIS learns the true facts later. In the long run, it’s always better to provide the truth. If you feel the truth may create a problem for you, speak to an immigration attorney before filing the form.
In some cases, “unknown” is an acceptable answer. For example, a question may ask, “where was your immigrant visa approved?” If you do not know, do not remember, and have exhausted a reasonable search for the information, entering “unknown” is a valid answer.
If a question does not apply, you still need to respond. Write “N/A” (not applicable) instead of leaving the space blank. For example, if you are asked “What is your current spouse’s nationality,” but you do not have a spouse, you should answer “N/A” because the question does not apply to your situation.
Be Consistent When Preparing USCIS Immigration Forms
It may seem obvious, but you should avoid any confusion when filling out USCIS immigration forms. USCIS may perceive inconsistent answers as dishonest answers.
For example, you might live with a friend but use your parents’ address to get mail. USCIS forms will ask for your residence (e.g. the physical place you live) and mailing address (e.g. the place you receive mail). Be careful to answer correctly and consistently in response.
List All Your Name(s) When Preparing USCIS Immigration Forms
At first glance providing your name should be a simple answer. However, USCIS may ask for every variation of your name. Again, it’s important that you provide all versions of your name to avoid confusion and maintain consistency.
Here are some important things to get straight before you start writing your name(s) in the forms:
If you have recently married and changed your last name, use your married name. But if you are continuing to use your maiden name, that’s okay too – don’t change it solely for the sake of your immigration application, even if you are trying to obtain a green card based on marriage.
When your current name is requested, it is best to insert the name you currently use for legal purposes. This will normally be the name on your bank account, driver’s license, and passport. If you have been known by a nickname (for example, your name is James but you always use the common nickname “Jim”), its okay to fill in the application as “Jim,” as long as you list “James” where the form asks for other names used. This will avoid confusion when USCIS compares your application form with the accompanying documents (your employer, for example, might write a letter saying “Jim worked here . . .”).
Legal Name Changes
If you have actually obtained a court-ordered legal name change, include a copy of the court order, to help dispel some of the inevitable confusion. If you have changed your name without a court order (by simply beginning to use a different name and using it consistently, which is legal in many U.S. states) and you use your changed name for all legal purposes, list it as your current name.
The category for “other names used” could include nicknames. The immigration authorities will want to know about nicknames that might be shown on your various legal documents (or a criminal record). You should also include names by which you have been publicly known, especially as an adult. However, personal names used within your household such as “sugar-pie” or “little brother” need not be included. Nor should unwanted childhood nicknames.
Previous Married Names
If you have been married before, remember to list your name from that marriage in the boxes requesting other names used.
Translations When Preparing USCIS Immigration Forms
If you have included any foreign language documents, you must also submit certified translations. The translator must certify that s/he is competent to translate and that the translation is accurate. The certification format should include the certifier’s name, signature, address, and date of certification. Download a template and learn more about certified translations.
RECOMMENDED: Certified Translation Explained
Application Packages When Preparing USCIS Immigration Forms
If you are submitting attachments to your application to provide additional information, be sure to include your complete name, date of birth, and A-number (if applicable) on each sheet.
Always provide photocopies of your personal documents (e.g. marriage certificates, school records, etc.) unless you are specifically requested to include an original and/or certified copy.
When you assemble the application package, place your payment (if applicable) on top, followed by a cover letter, USCIS form(s), and any supporting documentation. Do not use staples. USCIS prefers the use of ACCO fasteners to hold together thick or bulky applications.
After You Have Filed
If you file Form G-1145 together with your primary application or petition, USCIS will provide you a notification with updates via text or e-mail. Otherwise, you can enter your receipt number to track your case status on the USCIS website. USCIS will provide you a receipt number approximately 2-3 weeks after filing. To learn more about processing times and what happens after filing, read:
- What Happens After Filing Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card
- What Happens After Filing Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiance
- What Happens After Filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
- What Happens After Filing Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status
- What Happens After Filing Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence
- What Happens After Filing Form I-821D, DACA Renewal
- What Happens After Filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
CitizenPath helps you to avoid mistakes, errors and oversights when preparing USCIS immigration forms.
CitizenPath provides simple, affordable, step-by-step guidance through USCIS immigration applications. Individuals, attorneys and non-profits use the service on desktop or mobile device to prepare immigration forms accurately, avoiding costly delays. CitizenPath allows users to try the service for free and provides a 100% money-back guarantee that USCIS will approve the application or petition. We provide support for the Petition to Help a Relative Obtain a Green Card (Form I-130), Green Card Renewal/Replacement (Form I-90), Citizenship Application (Form N-400), and several other commonly used USCIS forms.
Note to Reader: This post was originally published on December 5, 2017, and has been modified with improvements.