Common mistakes made in immigration petitions and applications

Common mistakes made in immigration petitions and applications

A petition to US Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) is usually a request for some type of visa or other legal status to be in the United States. USCIS petitions are how people seek to adjust their status, become lawful permanent residents, renew or change a visa, or bring relatives or employees to the United States.

Petitions are obviously extremely important. But mistakes are made in petitions all the time. I see these common mistakes all too often.

Lie to USCIS. This is easily the biggest mistake. Lying on immigration forms, even small lies, can ruin an otherwise perfect petition. It’s much better to acknowledge something and address it directly than to ignore it. An example of this is a criminal record. USCIS will certainly detect any criminal convictions; not disclosing a criminal conviction is a bad strategy, but people use it all the time. A better strategy is to present them accurately and then present proof of rehabilitation.

Using different versions of your name and address. USCIS is looking for consistency to help sort through the voluminous documents they receive. You can help this greatly by consistently using the exact same name, spelled the same way, throughout the documentation. “John Thomas Smith” should be used every time, not “John Smith” here and “JT Smith” there. Likewise, the address used must be your real, permanent address. Don’t say you live somewhere you don’t.

You cannot update your address after you move. If you are moving from one address to another, it is mandatory to inform USCIS within 10 days. Fails to make full copies of all submitted documents. Once you’re done with your petition, you’re not done! There are actually four things that need to happen: 1) double checking that everything is filled out and signed, 2) an extra copy of everything made for your records, 3) checking that your petition is sent to the correct address, and 4) sending with proof of receipt. A complete copy of everything you sent, in the same form and order you sent it, will go a long way if USCIS loses any of your documents or requests an in-person interview.

Using an unlicensed “immigration consultant”. Before you hire someone to assist you with an immigration petition, make sure they will sign the USCIS petition as your representative. If they refuse, it is a red flag that they are not permitted to practice immigration law. At a minimum, don’t assume you can’t afford immigration representation from an attorney.

Relying on internet posts and forums to prepare your petition. Although many forums can have helpful and useful advice, it is better to use it to identify problems rather than to reach legal conclusions. Immigration law has many exceptions and complex rules, and the rules change frequently. Whatever information you gather from an internet forum should be verified by someone who is really familiar with immigration law.

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