Some people are under the misimpression that United States Citizen and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) charges a fee to download an immigration form. It is important to understand that the forms themselves are free and may be downloaded free of charge off the official website of USCIS.gov. This link will also take you to the appropriate forms page. Note that there are government fees to file the form, which is separate, but there is no fee to download the forms. But before you rush off to file whatever form you are thinking, take a deep breath first to evaluate your case and consider these five questions:
1) Are you filing the right form? If you file the incorrect form, not only do you risk not getting the result you are looking for, but you also risk the government keeping your filing fee and still denying your case. Make sure you understand what you are trying to do, and read the instructions carefully to ensure that the form addresses your needs or concerns. For example, filing to renew a green card is not the same thing as filing to remove conditions on permanent residence. They are two separate things and each has its own form.
2) Have you filled out the form completely? If you have not signed the form or completely filled out the application, the application may 1) be returned for incompleteness or 2) delayed because USCIS may have to send a Request for More Evidence to evaluate the information that should have initially been disclosed on the application.
3) Have you attached the appropriate supporting documentation? Filing an I-130, for example, is more than just filing the form and attaching the filing fee. Most applications must be supported by supporting documentation and evidence. In the case of a family petition, you will have to attach documentary proof demonstrating the family relationships, ie., birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc. In the case of an employment application, you may need to attach proof of income, solvency, and eligibility to perform the stated job duties. If documentation is not attached, the application may easily be denied by USCIS. In some cases, this can be disastrous because by the time you find out that an application has been denied, it may too late for you file an application.
4) Do you understand the consequences of filling out the form and the information contained therein? Many people, unfortunately, either don’t read the instructions carefully or take advice from neigbors or friends without taking the time to consult with a qualified immigration attorney. There are legal obligations that are incurred by filing certain forms that you need to understand. For example, in many family based cases, an Affidavit of Support is required. Do you understand the legal significance of this form and the obligations that you are undertaking by executing the form? It is more than just sending in your last three years tax returns.
5) Are you sure you want to file that form? Sometimes, it may not be in your best interest to file certain forms and applications. We have consulted with numerous people who have made the hasty and ill advised decision to listen to a notario and file for certain immigration benefits that they were not eligible for. In some cases, these “consultants” and notaries completed the forms with false information. These types of decisions can jeopardize your status or eligibility for future applications or relief it is determined that you submitted false information on an immigration application. In other instances, especially if you are out of status, it is important to understand that by filing certain forms, you are declaring your presence and revealing yourself. This may not be the best thing for you, especially if you do not qualify for any relief.
One should never have to pay a fee to download the form off the official USCIS website. However, unless you can confidently answer all the above questions, you might want to get a second opinion from an immigration attorney who does this for a living. Spending a little money now to get the best advice will potentially save you a lot of grief and anguish down the road.
We hope that you have enjoyed this article and learned at least one new thing or tip that you may not have known. To keep informed about the latest developments in immigration law, please subscribe to our blog feed by clicking on the “Subscribe To This Blog’s Feed” button on the right. It is important to understand that the above is only general information and not legal advice. The law is extremely fact and circumstance sensitive. For an individual legal analysis of your specific legal case, please complete the “Case Evaluation” box to the right of the screen to get in touch with one of our attorneys or click here.