USCIS Issues RFE Templates for Certain Non-Immigrant Extraordinary Ability Categories

by Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC
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United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Requests for Evidence (RFE) can be a source of significant frustration for immigration practitioners and their clients.  They sometimes reflect that a) the officer did not read or ignored the evidence already submitted; b) the officer confused category requirements or misinterpreted the law; c) the officer sent boilerplate information about the law and then asked for everything but the kitchen sink; or d) the officer automatically suspected a business of fraud due to its small size.

On April 12, 2010, the USCIS introduced the RFE Project, an initiative that engages stakeholders in the review and revision of RFE templates used at the Service Centers to ensure they are: consistent across each of the USCIS Service Centers; relevant to the classification being adjudicated;  tailored to the individual case; and concise and clear.  In the past, the USCIS has released RFE Templates for certain L-1 categories and for the E-11 immigrant category. 

On January 22, 2013, the USCIS released five new RFE Templates to be used for evaluating certain O Visa Petitions: O-1A Science, Education, Business, Athletics (SEBA); O-1B Motion Picture and Television Production; O-2 in the Motion Picture or TV industry; O-2 Artist or Athlete; and O-1B Alien of Extraordinary Ability in the Arts.

These templates present all identified requirements specific to the relevant classification. Generally, an adjudicator will not find it necessary to request everything within the template in response to a single petition.  Adjudicators will craft RFEs based upon evidence already provided and what evidence might be helpful in resolving any deficiencies.  If a requirement has not been met, the adjudicator will provide an explanation along with a list of suggested evidence that may satisfy the deficiency.  The petitioner may submit some or all of the evidence listed, or any other evidence he or she believes satisfies the requirement.  If all requirements in a particular component have been met, that component will not be listed on the RFE.

Knowing the agency's views on potential RFE requests in advance of filing can be very helpful in selecting the best visa categories for a client and for preparing cases in a way that avoids receiving RFEs in the first place.  These RFE Templates allow for increased transparency as to the government’s specific document requirements and reduce the likelihood of abuse of discretion by reviewing officers.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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