8 Common Immigration Mistakes

The United States of America is famous for its acceptance of immigrants from foreign countries. We have a larger immigrant population than any other country. The goal for many immigrants is to obtain a green card, become a U.S. citizen, or gain dual citizenship.

The four most common ways to become a U.S. citizen include birth, derivation, acquisition, and naturalization. In 2019, over 800,000 people successfully became United States citizens through naturalization. Learn about the common mistakes applicants make so that you may avoid them.

application for naturalization
An application for naturalization. FileRight knows the common mistakes applicants make, and we’re here to help you prevent them.

FileRight explains eight common immigration mistakes that people make when filing their applications. Learn how to avoid the problems that others have faced.

Video Transcript

Hello, my name is Hana Boston, and I’m an immigration attorney with FileRight.com

Let’s talk about some common mistakes people make when completing U.S. immigration paperwork.

Number One: Forgetting to Submit All the Paperwork

Every immigration process requires at least one government form. But what most people don’t know is that you’re often required to submit loads of other paperwork called supporting evidence.

Supporting evidence is paperwork that helps prove something about you. For example, utility bills can prove you have a U.S. address. A marriage certificate proves your marriage is valid. An arrival-departure record proves you entered the U.S. legally.

Remember, you only need to send a copy of these documents unless the USCIS specifically asks for the original. When you’re getting ready to submit your immigration application, be sure to include all the necessary supporting evidence. It’s a good idea to have a checklist specific to your situation so that you don’t miss anything.

Number Two: Sending Documents That Aren’t Translated

The USCIS requires that all supporting evidence be in English. If you are required to submit official documents that are not in English—like a foreign birth certificate—you must include the translation.

Translations need to be certified. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to go to a notary public or hire a professional translator. You can have a friend or someone you know do the translation for you.

“Certified” simply means the translator promises that their translation is complete and correct and that he or she is able to translate that language into English. The certification must be made in writing and signed.

The certification must also include the date, signature, and address of the translator. It could look something like this. Submit the certification, the translation, and a copy of your original document with your immigration application.

Number Three: Forgetting to Sign Your Application

It might seem like an obvious tip, but did you know that unsigned applications are one of the top reasons for rejection year after year? Applications that aren’t signed are immediately rejected.

Now, it’s important to note that a rejection is not a denial. When an application is rejected, it’s returned to you with the government fee. But in the case of a denial, you’ll have to resubmit the entire application, including the fee—that’s if you can even apply again.

With a rejection, you can fix your mistake. But you’ll have wasted time and lengthened the immigration process.

Number Four: Getting the Fee Wrong

Just like a forgotten signature, submitting an incorrect fee with your immigration application can cause it to be immediately rejected. There are two things to keep in mind when preparing your government fee.

Number one: Be sure to double check that you’re paying the correct fee amount. You can find this on the application instructions, usually towards the end.

Number two: The USCIS only accepts payment in the form of a check or money order from a U.S. institution. The USCIS does not accept cash or checks issued from foreign banks.

Number Five: Missing Your Window to Renew

If you’re applying to renew or extend your immigration benefit, be sure to apply before your current status expires.

Immigration applications sometimes take months or even years to process. Losing your status while your application is pending could result in you having no legal immigration status for a period of time. It’s illegal to be living in the U.S. without valid immigration status. And the longer you do it, the more penalties there are.

You could be forced to leave the U.S. and, depending on how long you are here without status, you could be forced to stay out of the country for three years or even longer. The application instructions will tell you how early you can apply. It’s best practice to apply as early as possible.

Number Six: Not Knowing Your Criminal Record

When the USCIS is reviewing your immigration application, they check your criminal record. You should be aware of all the crimes you committed—from traffic violations to drug offenses.

Even minor crimes can affect whether or not your immigration application is approved. That’s why it’s important to know what’s on your record before you file.

You can easily request a copy of your criminal record from the FBI before you apply. All you need is a set of fingerprints, the $18 application fee, and the FBI form. You can get your fingerprints taken at your local police station or check with private companies in the area that provide this service. Visit www.fbi.gov to get an application. It takes about 30 days to process.

If you do have a criminal record, it’s always a good idea to have it reviewed by an immigration attorney. They can advise you on how best to answer questions on the immigration application and what to do if the USCIS asks more questions about your crimes.

Number Seven: Getting Scammed

Unfortunately, immigration scams are a real and prevalent problem. Immigration scams cost people hundreds or even thousands of dollars and can sometimes have huge consequences like deportation.

People get tricked every day from notarios and others that say they can help, but actually aren’t qualified to do so. It’s extremely important to understand the different types of immigration help available and what exactly they are qualified to do.

A notario is not an attorney. In the United States, a notario or “notary public,” is only qualified as a “document preparer.” They do not have the authority to advise you on what forms to file. They cannot tell you how to answer questions. And they cannot offer advice on more complicated aspects of immigration—like how to get a friend or relative legal status.

Many notarios try to convince people that they have the same power as attorneys. They might lie about their knowledge and ability and charge you similar fees as attorneys—but they cannot offer the same quality of help.

Number Eight: Not Getting Help

Immigration is complicated. It’s not always easy to go through the process alone. Luckily, there’s lots of help available. Many nonprofit agencies, like Catholic Charities or United We Dream, offer immigration help free of charge or at a low cost.

And there is FileRight.com. FileRight.com offers online immigration software to help you complete immigration applications on your own and avoid making mistakes that could cause rejection.

Before you submit your application alone, explore all your options. For more immigration tips, or to learn more about FileRight’s immigration software, visit us at FileRight.com!

Can You Correct a Mistake on Your Immigration Document?

If you realize your immigration application has a mistake, you may be able to correct it before your visa interview. Contact the National Visa Center (NVC). Explain the mistake and ask to make corrections.

Why Do Immigration Applications Get Denied?

There are many reasons why the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may deny an immigration application. Your request for immigration benefits may be denied if:

  • You are ineligible for citizenship
  • You misrepresent your identity
  • You entered the U.S. illegally
  • You are considered a security risk
  • You are likely to need government financial assistance

Like anyone, employees of USCIS and processing offices are capable of making mistakes. They may lose your filing fee check, misplace your supporting documents, or incorrectly record your information. If you receive a notice of intent to deny your application, review it carefully to determine if your application was denied in error.

What to Do if Your Application Is Denied?

If your application has been rejected, the government will return your payment with your application. You will have another opportunity to correct any issues before it is processed. You may also receive an official request for evidence (RFE).

A denial, on the other hand, means that your case has been assessed and a decision has been made. Depending on the immigration benefit you are seeking, you may either file an appeal within 30 days or submit a new application. 

In most cases, applicants have to start the process all over again and pay the government filing fees a second time. Seeking help with your immigration application may save you the time and expense of having to submit a new application.

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