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Common Mistakes Made in Immigration Petitions and Applications

A petition to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) is generally a request for some sort of visa or other legal status to be in the United States. USCIS petitions are how persons seek to adjust status, become a lawful permanent resident, renew or change a visa, or to bring relatives or employees into the Untied States.

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

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

Using different versions of your name and address. The USCIS looks for consistency to help sort out the voluminous paperwork they receive. You can help that greatly by consistently using exactly the same name, spelled the same way, throughout the paperwork. “John Thomas Smith” should be used every time, not “John Smith” here, and “J. T. Smith” there. Similarly, the address used should be your true, permanent address. Don’t say that you live somewhere you don’t.

Failing to update your address after you move. If you move from one address to another, it is mandatory that you to inform USCIS within 10 days. Failing to make complete copies of all papers submitted. Once you have finished your petition, you are not finished! There are in fact four things that need to happen: 1) a double-check that everything has been completed and signed, 2) an extra copy of everything made for your records, 3) verification that your petition is being sent to the correct address, and 4) shipping with proof of receipt. A full copy of everything you sent, in the same form and order you sent it, will help you greatly if the USCIS misplaces any of your documentation, or requests an in-person interview.

Using an unlicensed “immigration consultant.” Before you hire anyone to assist you in an immigration petition, make sure that they will sign the USCIS petition on as your representative. If they refuse, that is a red flag that they are not permitted to practice immigration law. At a minimum, do not assume that you cannot afford immigration representation from an attorney.

Relying on internet postings and forums to prepare your petition. While many forums can have helpful and useful advice, they are better used to identify issues, rather than come to legal conclusions. Immigration law has many exceptions and complex rules, and the rules change often. Whatever information you gather from an internet forum needs to be corroborated with someone actually knowledgeable about immigration law.


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