Filing immigration forms may seem easy. However, things can sometimes get more complicated than they appear. If you are thinking of filing an immigration case yourself, here are a few things to consider, so you don’t make the same mistakes countless others have made:
1) Filing the wrong forms. People often come into the office wondering why they have not received certain appointments or documents not realizing that they never filed for them, or filed the wrong forms.
2) Not filing all the required forms. If one is filing for adjustment of status from within the United States, you need to file Form I-485. Filing the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative alone by itself does not signify or represent an intention to file for adjustment. Conversely, if you are filing for adjustment based on an underlying family relationship, that usually means that an I-130 has to be filed.
3) Sending in only the forms themselves without appending the proper supporting documents. For example, when an I-130 is filed, the applicant must attach documents supporting the claimed relationship, ie., birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc.
4) Sending the forms to the incorrect address. Addresses constantly change. It is extremely important to use the latest forms and read the latest instructions.
5) Sending forms without proof of mailing. Saving a few cents may be very costly if you need to prove that you mailed something in before a deadline. For important, time-sensitive cases, it is extremely important that submissions have some sort of delivery confirmation.
6) Sending forms without retaining a copy for one’s file. If what you send later becomes the issue of dispute, it will be extremely important, obviously, to have a copy of what was sent. Also, should you one day have to seek legal help, the attorney will need to see what you filed.
7) Not attaching the proper filing fee. If you send the form with the incorrect filing fee, immigration will return the package to you. You will not have a priority date until the package is properly filed.
8) Not signing all the forms at the appropriate spots. Similarly, if all the forms are not properly signed, immigration in most cases will not hesitate to return the forms.
9) Not understanding the bases of eligibility. This is a big one. Not everyone, for example, just because they are here, will qualify to file for adjustment of status. There are numerous issues to consider, such as manner of entry, current immigration status, criminal history, previous immigration history, etc. There is a reason, for example, why some people who may have crossed into the United States illegally but who are married to US citizens still can’t file for adjustment.
10) Not consulting a licensed professional. Even if you cannot afford an attorney to file your paperwork and represent you, it is often beneficial to, at least, consult with an attorney to ensure that the proper forms are being filed and there is a legal basis to file what you are filing. While consultations may cost you anywhere from $100 to $200, you may be saving yourself thousands of dollars in the long run.