Addressing Requests for Evidence (RFE)

What is a request for evidence (RFE)?

An “RFE” is a Request for Evidence. An RFE may be issued by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a variety of reasons, including when something in a pending immigration application is unclear, a document required for the application is missing, information in your application needs to be updated or the officer makes a mistake.

An RFE does not mean that your case will be denied but rather that the immigration officer reviewing your case needs more information before he/she can make a decision.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

Is it common to get a request for evidence (RFE)?

Receiving a request for evidence (RFE) is fairly common and is generally not cause for concern. However, it is important to respond to all RFE’s in a timely manner. Failure to acknowledge an RFE may result in denial of your case, even if the RFE was mistakenly issued.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

Greencard Timelines and Costs

How much does it cost to get a green card?

The government filing fees for Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, the form which is required to apply for a green card, are:

  • $750 for each applicant under 14 years of age and filing with the I-485 application of at least one parent
  • $1,140 for each applicant under 14 years of age and not filing with the I-485 application of at least one parent
  • $1,140 for each applicant over the age of 14

Applicants between the ages of 14 and 78 will also have to pay an $85 biometric fee, bringing the total government filing fee to $1,225 per applicant.

This does not include the cost (if necessary) of obtaining any required supporting documentation nor does it include legal fees, which vary by green card category.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

Living in the U.S.

My driver’s license expiration date is tied to my I-94 expiration, but my I-94 has not yet been extended. How can I renew my driver’s license?

The process for renewing a driver’s license which is tied to an expired I-94 is state-specific. In North Carolina and South Carolina, Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) offices should recognize the 240-day automatic extension period and will issue driver’s licenses for that period of time in which the petition is pending past the expiration date.

To prove eligibility for this type of extension you will need your NC driver’s license number, the expiring I-94 card, your visa, your passport ID page and the I-797 receipt of petition extension. It is possible that you will have to speak with a supervisor at the DMV to explain your situation since not all DMV workers have been trained on extended driver’s licenses in this type of situation.

Please contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions or to receive information about other states’ policies.

When will my social security number (SSN) come?

When you are admitted into the United States as a lawful permanent resident (green card holder), the Department of Homeland Security sends your information to the Social Security Administration, notifying them of your arrival and status. In general, you can expect to receive your social security card within three weeks of being admitted into the country. If you do not receive your card within three weeks, go to the nearest social security office or card center with proof of age, identity and employment authorization.

If entering as a nonimmigrant, you may submit an application for a social security number (SSN) at a social security administration (SSA) office. You must take the following documents with you to present to the social security official: a valid passport, a printout of your I-94 Arrival/Departure record, a completed form SS-5, application for a social security card and a second form of identification, such as an international driver’s license. Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm recommends that you wait at least 10 calendar days after your entry into the United States to make your appointment for an SSN so that your nonimmigrant status will be updated in the appropriate database. Currently, it takes the SSA approximately two weeks to assign a social security number. However, the SSA has recently instituted a verification system whereby the SSA must verify the individual’s immigration documents with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before it will issue a social security card. The SSA reports that it usually issues the card within two days of receiving the verification from USCIS. However, if the SSA cannot verify the immigration documents online, it may take several weeks or months to obtain the verification response from USCIS.

The Firm recommends that when you submit your SSN application, you request a copy of the uncertified SSN application for your records. You can also provide the SSA with a telephone number and the SSA will notify you telephonically of the SSN issuance before you receive your card in the mail. Another alternative is to call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 and ask for your SSN. The teleservice representative would be able to locate and provide the SSN (after verifying your identity) when the number has been issued.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

Permanent Employment Certification (PERM) Process

What happens if a qualified U.S. worker applies for the position during the labor market test? Does the company have to hire the qualified U.S. worker?

During the labor market test the employer must review all applications received and follow up with any applicants who appear to meet the minimum job requirements. If an able, willing, available and qualified applicant is identified, then the PERM application cannot be filed. However, because the employer is conducting a “test” of the labor market, the employer is not required to hire anyone as a result of the test.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

Is there anything I can do to expedite the PERM application process?

The Office of Foreign Labor Certification does not expedite the processing of PERM applications due to the personal circumstances of any individual petitioner or employee. However, the subsequent I-140 immigrant petition can be filed with a request for “premium processing” for an additional USCIS filing fee.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

How long does the PERM process take? When will the PERM application be filed?

From the time Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm receives the completed job summary sheet and PERM questionnaire, until the time the PERM application can be filed with the U.S. Department of Labor is usually seven to 12 months. However, there are many steps and variables that affect the process, so each case is different.

The Firm works closely with employers and their foreign national employees to guide them through the process in as efficient a manner as possible that does not compromise the quality of the application.

After the PERM application is filed, the Firm monitors it closely and provides periodic updates on the Department of Labor processing times.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

Will I be able to continue traveling outside of the U.S. during the PERM process?

The PERM process does not impact your ability to travel outside the United States. However, you must establish a separate means for obtaining a visa for reentry and should notify your immigration counsel as soon as possible when you know you will travel.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

How long does the Labor Market Test take?

There are many variables that affect when the PERM application can be filed. By regulation, PERM applications must be filed within 180 days of the first recruitment date. In general, however, the Labor Market Test takes approximately 60 to 90 days. PERM regulations require one 30-day job posting with the state workforce agency, in addition to at least two Sunday postings in a newspaper of common circulation that is likely to attract applicants. The employer must wait an additional 30 days from the conclusion of recruitment to file the PERM application.

Additionally, all applications received must be carefully reviewed by human resources and often require follow-up with applicants to determine if applicants are willing, able, available and qualified U.S. workers. This process can take time.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

Understanding Immigration Documents

Can my child get an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)?

Whether your child may obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) depends on whether he/she qualifies for one of the categories allowing children work authorization. Remember that, even with an EAD, any employment your child accepts must be in accordance with state and federal labor laws.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

What happens if my nonimmigrant status expires while my extension is pending?

If your nonimmigrant status expires while your extension is pending and you are extending an A-3, E-1, E-2, G-5, H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, H-3, I, J-1, L-1, O-1, P-1, R-1 or TN visa, you will still be allowed to remain in the United States and to continue your employment for up to 240 days.

The “240-day rule,” codified by 8 C.F.R. § 247a.12(b)(20), allows any foreign national who filed his/her application for extension in one of the designated nonimmigrant categories prior to the expiration of his/her current status to continue to work for the same employer for up to 240 days beginning on the date the authorized period of stay expires. Being issued an RFE will not affect your ability to utilize the 240-day rule.

However, if your application for an extension is denied, your authorization to work is immediately revoked. You may travel abroad after filing an application for extension and still maintain your lawful status but you must either return to the United States before your current nonimmigrant visa expires or remain abroad until your extension is approved and you have obtained a new visa.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

What happens if my visa expires while I’m in the United States?

There will not be a problem if your visa expires while you are in the United States. When you entered the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection immigration officer at the port of entry (likely an airport) authorized you to stay in the U.S. for a set period of time when he/she admitted you into the country. He/she should have noted that period of stay on your admission stamp or on your Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. You can stay for the entire period noted, even if your visa expires during that period of time.

It is important, however, to keep your I-94 inside your passport so that you have an official record of your permission to be in the United States, particularly if your visa does not reflect your entire authorized period of stay.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

My visa is expired, but my Form I-94 is still valid. Can I travel outside of the U.S.?

Pursuant to the U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) Inspector’s Field Manual Ch. 15.3, 8 CFR § 214.1(b), and 22 CFR § 41.112(d), automatic visa revalidation applies to expired nonimmigrant visas of foreign nationals who have been outside of the United States for 30 days or less to visit a contiguous territory (Canada or Mexico). The validity of an expired nonimmigrant visa is automatically extended to the date on which the foreign national applies for readmission. Automatic visa revalidation also applies to situations in which United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has granted a change from the initial nonimmigrant classification to another nonimmigrant classification before the foreign national’s temporary departure.

A foreign national may rely on automatic visa revalidation when s/he holds an expired visa with which s/he was previously admitted and is in possession of a valid Form I-94 card showing an unexpired period of initial admission or extension of stay; (i) is applying for readmission after an absence not exceeding 30 days solely in contiguous territory; (ii) has maintained and intends to resume nonimmigrant status; (iii) is applying for readmission within the authorized period of initial admission or extension of stay; (iv) is in possession of a valid passport and (v) has not applied for a visa while outside of the United States.

As long as you meet the above-mentioned criteria, you are not required to obtain a new visa, provided that your passport validity requirements are met. In addition, there is no limit to the number of entries you can make under the automatic revalidation provisions, provided that all eligibility requirements and criteria are met.

Training on the automatic revalidation provisions is currently administered at the CBP Academy during basic training, as well as during post academy training that is administered after the trainee officers have returned from the academy. The training is also administered to officers during immigration cross-training, and periodic musters are disseminated to the field regarding automatic revalidation. Attached is documentation of training and muster material including copy of the CBP Fact Sheet which is accessible to CBP Officers for informational purposes, addressing the laws and regulations concerning automatic revalidation, as noted above.

You should NOT turn in your currently valid I-94 card on departure from the U.S. to Canada or Mexico for less than 30 days. If the airline tries to demand it be turned in, it should be explained that this is the travel document required to return to the U.S. The airline official should be directed to the highlighted section of the attached CBP guidance entitled Filling out I-94 Arrival-Departure Record.

In addition to carrying copies of the attached guidance, you should also be in possession of the following for automatic revalidation purposes: your valid passport containing the expired visa stamp; your original I-94 Arrival/Departure Record and a photocopy of the I-4; your I-797 Notice of Action Approval Notice or endorsed Form I-129S and a photocopy, as applicable and documentation of the duration of your trip.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

What is the PED (Petition End Date) listed on my visa?

The PED listed on your visa is your Petition End Date, or the date on which the status under which you entered the United States will expire.

For example, if you entered the United States on an H-1B visa, your PED reflects the date on which you will no longer be eligible to work in the United States as an H-1B visa holder. Generally, your PED will correspond to the expiration date given by USCIS in approving the nonimmigrant status.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information

Visa Processing and Timelines

What is the current processing time for a visa appointment/visa issuance?

The current processing time for a visa appointment/visa issuance varies depending on which consulate you are applying through. All current processing times can be found on the U.S. Department of State website.

Please remember that these times are only to be used as estimates and the exact time it takes for you to obtain an appointment may vary.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

How long does it take to get a nonimmigrant visa?

The amount of time required to obtain a visa will depend on multiple factors including the type of non-immigrant visa for which you are applying as well as the U.S. consulate or embassy where you will be applying.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

How much is the visa fee?

The amount of your visa processing fee will depend on the type of visa you are applying for. Non-petition-based nonimmigrant visas (except for the E visa), including B visas for visitors, F visas for students, TN/TD visas for NAFTA professionals and U visas for victims of criminal activity have a nonrefundable nonimmigrant visa application processing fee of $160.00.

Petition based visa categories, which include R visas for religious workers, O visas for persons with extraordinary ability, L visas for intracompany transfers and H visas for temporary workers, have a fee of $190.00. Those applying for a visa under the E category for treaty traders or investors will be required to pay a fee of $270.00 and spouses/fiancés of U.S. citizens will have a fee of $240.00 as K visa applicants. For a complete list of visa processing fee amounts visit the U.S. Department of State website.

There may be an additional visa issuance fee depending on the applicant’s country of citizenship. The applicable visa issuance fee may be found in the country-specific visa reciprocity table.

Neither the visa processing fee nor the visa issuance fee include attorney fees, or any other incidental expenses incurred pursuant to a visa application such as travel costs. They also do not include government filing fees for forms submitted to the Department of Homeland Security’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

How long will it take to get my passport back after my visa appointment? Can I pick it up that day?

Generally, you will not be able to pick up your passport the same day. The consular officer who conducts your interview will keep your passport for further processing.

The consulate will then send your visa via courier to you at an address you provide or inform you as to when and how you should pick up your documents. Please visit the U.S. Department of State website to view current processing times for specific consulates.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

What happens if my visa application is selected for administrative processing?

In some cases, the consular officer needs additional time after the interview to review your application materials. The officer will not issue your visa until administrative processing is complete.

In most cases, administrative processing will be completed within 60 days. However, the exact timing will vary depending on the details of the case. Administrative processing cannot be expedited.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

What if I don’t have a U.S. address to put on the DS-160?

The DS-160 system will not let you submit an application with any mandatory questions left unanswered and it is mandatory to include a U.S. address or indicate “to be determined.” If you have a contact person in the U.S. whose address you would feel comfortable listing, you may include it in this section.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

My visa application has been put into administrative processing by the consulate. What should I do?

Administrative processing will generally be completed within 60 days of the completion of the visa interview, but the exact timing will vary depending on the circumstances of your case. If your application is subject to administrative clearance, you should contact experienced immigration counsel.

During the time in which your case is in administrative processing you will need to wait to hear from the consular officer. If you receive a request for supplemental information or documents from the consular officer, contact your immigration counsel so that they can assist with responding promptly and thoroughly. If not, you do not need to do anything until you hear from the embassy/consulate.

Do not contact the consulate/embassy until at least 60 days after the date of the interview or the submission of supplemental documents, whichever is later.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

Can I schedule my visa interview appointment before submitting my DS-160 application?

In most instances, submitting your DS-160 online application is the first step in applying for a visa. Once you submit your DS-160, you will see an option on the screen to “Schedule Appointment.”

Once you follow that link you will be prompted to enter a 10-digit barcode number from the last page of your electronic visa application form (DS-160). After submitting your barcode number, you will be able to select a preferred appointment time.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

What happens if my visa is denied?

The steps you can take if your visa is not approved will vary depending on the reason(s) your visa application was denied. In some cases, visas are denied simply because the applicant did not submit all necessary information or documentation. Other times, the denial is a result of the applicant’s ineligibility to apply based on current or past behavior. Some ineligibilities may be overcome but others are permanent. Some of the most common grounds of ineligibility are: Having been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude; having been convicted of a drug-related offense; having two or more criminal convictions for which the total sentence to confinement was five or more years; not presenting sufficient proof of adequate financial support in the United States; misrepresenting a material fact or committing fraud in an attempt to receive a visa; and having previously remained longer than authorized in the United States. If you are found to be ineligible, you will not receive a refund of your visa application processing fee.

Every denied applicant will be notified of the rationale behind their denial at the time their visa is denied. If the denial is a result of having been found to be ineligible, the consular office will also advise the applicant about his/her eligibility for a waiver of ineligibility. If your visa is not approved, you may reapply in the future. If you reapply after being found to be ineligible, you will usually have to submit a new visa application and pay the visa application fee again. If you were found to be ineligible because you did not demonstrate to the consular officer that you qualified for the nonimmigrant visa category to which you applied or because you could not show that you intended to return to your home country at the end of your stay in the United States, then you will be required to show that there have been significant changes in circumstances since your last application.

Filing suit to seek judicial relief could also be an option if there is a reasonable basis for considering a denial decision unfair.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

Can someone else submit my DS-160 visa application for me?

Because, under U.S. law, visa records are confidential, only select individuals may submit a visa application on behalf of someone else. If you are illiterate or otherwise unable to independently complete the DS-160 visa application, you must obtain a third party to assist you. That individual must be identified on the “Sign and Submit” page of the application.

If you are under 16 years of age or are physically unable to complete the application, your parent or legal guardian may complete it for you, including clicking the “Sign Application” button. If you are under 16 years of age or are physically unable to complete the application and do not have a parent or legal guardian, then your application may be completed by anyone who has legal custody of you or a legitimate interest in you.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

What is visa reciprocity?

While the United States has a policy against entering into formal reciprocity agreements, the U.S. bases its visa issuance fees, number of entries and maximum period of visa validity, by country, on those restrictions imposed by the sending country on U.S. travelers in practice. Country-specific reciprocity tables showing the current treatment of visa applicants are available on the U.S. Department of State website

Because visa reciprocity is country-specific, the maximum period of visa validity for a certain type of visa may differ depending on where the visa was issued.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

How long does it take to schedule a visa appointment at the U.S. consulate?

The typical wait time to receive an interview appointment to apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate will vary depending on the particular consulate through which you are applying and the number of individuals they are servicing at that time. Typical wait times per consulate can be found on the U.S. Department of State website. The times listed are estimates and your application may take longer.

In select situations, expedited processing may be requested. Though the requirements vary depending on the office, expedited appointments will generally only be granted in cases of urgent medical treatment, the death of a family member, for limited business reasons or for students with strict travel deadlines. Each embassy usually has a list of the acceptable grounds for expedited appointments in their office available on their website.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

My picture will not upload to the DS-160. What should I do?

If your photo upload fails, you should submit one printed photograph with your DS-160 confirmation page to the U.S. embassy where you are applying.

Your printed photograph must meet requirements set forth by the State Department in order to be accepted. The photo must be in color, sized such that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches in height, taken within the last six months, taken in front of a plain white or off-white background, taken in full-face view directly facing the camera, taken with a neutral facial expression with both eyes open and taken in clothing that you would normally wear on a daily basis. With the exception of religious clothing and headwear, you should not wear a uniform, hat/head covering or glasses in your picture.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.

If my visa is approved, how long does it take to get my passport back?

When your visa is approved, the interviewing officer will still need to keep your passport and documents for a period of time in order to complete administrative processing. You will be able to obtain your passport with your visa packet once the packet is ready for pickup.

The consular officer will let you know when and how to collect your passport and packet. Some offices will send your materials to you through a courier service rather than have you pick them up. While passports are often available within one week, the exact time may vary significantly depending on the office used and the workload that the consulate is facing at that particular time. Current visa wait times are available on the U.S. Department of State website.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm by phone at 704-442-8000 or via email with any additional questions and to receive more information.