An REF, as the name suggested, is a “Request for Evidence”. It is an extra step USCIS takes when assessing your application for a change of status. Different from NOID (Notice of Intent to Deny), receiving an RFE doesn’t mean you have a lower chance to pass the assessment, however, you should treat this seriously, especially if you have used Day 1 CPT before. You may think of an RFE as a second chance to review your application and ensure that you have provided the most compelling evidence that you are worthy of an H1B visa.
There are many reasons why one may receive an RFE notice. The most common one for people who have used CPT is “Maintenance of Status”. It refers to the following situation:
“The petitioner did not establish that the beneficiary properly maintained their current status. This category is reflective of many different reasons that status may not have been maintained.” (xiii)
In other words, USCIS may question whether you have met student employment requirements when using CPT or OPT under an F1 visa. It is a good idea to start putting together paperwork/evidence while you were still at CPT school.
Documents you need to collect
From your university
RFE Support Letter
CPT Corporate Agreement
From your Employer
Travel records, such as parking tickets, gas receipts, train/plane tickets, etc.
Study-related spending records, such as receipts for textbooks, software, etc.
Homework samples, study plan, study notes
Record of you using university email to receive and send messages regarding your study
Prove of address (i.e. utility bill, credit card statement, lease agreement or mortgage statement, etc.)
Dos and Don’ts
When writing your RFE report, be specific. If you used CPT for a prolonged period and had changed employers or universities in between, list every single one of them, better in chronological order. When explaining your CPT, directly address the question “which part of your study is related to which part of your internship duty”.
Currently, the RFE pass rate is around 75-80%. With the right materials, even if you had to go through it, it is highly likely that you will pass. Usually, people depend on their employers and their lawyers to deal with RFE material preparation. We recommend you step in and be involved in the process, instead of passively waiting. Lawyers, as professional as they are, do make mistakes. In this case, you will be the sole party to suffer the consequences. It is always better to have some level of control over your own fate. It is not uncommon that RFE fails due to insufficient communication between petitioners and their lawyers.
In most cases, the petitioner will receive an e-notice first. It takes approximately 10 days before you will receive the official letter (paper-based) with a checklist of the requested additional materials. Once all materials are submitted, it takes a couple of weeks for USCIS to process. If your case is complicated and further appeal is expected, the waiting time can be months. During this period, you are allowed to take a new job offer or assume a new position as long as your legal status is maintained. We highly recommend you limit unnecessary cross-border travels and stay put until RFE is resolved.
Other Common Reasons to Get an RFE & How to Respond
1. Specialty Occupation
“A specialty occupation is one that requires the application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and the attainment of at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.” (U.S. Department of Labor)
In most cases, the level of degree is not the problem but the major. People with an MBA or a social science degree often receive such notice since their study can cover too large of a scale. It is hard to prove why any specific position requires an employee with such a versatile skill set.
We recommend you respond to this request with an “expert opinion letter”.
Like Specialty Occupation, a simple “expert opinion letter” will do you justice.
3. Employer-employee Relationship
This is a rather easy thing to prove. Materials like a contract and your supervisor’s notes will help.
4. Company Address/VIBE
This is also an easy puzzle to solve. You should consider yourself lucky if this is the only reason you’ve gotten an RFE. It is possible that your company’s information was not updated on USCIS’s platform. All you need to do is update your information and ask your employer to update their information according to USCIS’s request.
5. Availability of Work 【On-site】
If you are working for a small company, you may receive an RFE based on this reason. The company must prove that your position will still be there in 3 years, which is the length of an H1B visa.
6. Availability of Work 【Off-site】
Usually happens when you are applying for an H1B from outside the U.S. In this case, you are at the mercy of the company that hires you. It will be up to them to prove the necessity of bringing you on board.
There are many other individualized reasons for an RFE. We cannot cover them all. It is always a good idea to consult with professionals. Meanwhile, stay calm and carry on. We wish you the best of luck in passing RFE and start a new chapter of your life here in America.