U.S. Immigration – Application Filing Instructions

U.S. Immigration - Application Filing Instructions

Form Filling

  • Type or print legibly in black ink. Do not use a pencil.

  • If you need extra space to answer any item, attach a sheet of paper with your name and your alien registration number (A#), if any, and indicate the number of the item to which the answer refers. Date and sign each sheet. 

  • Answer all questions fully and accurately. If an item does not apply, write “N/A”. If the answer is “None”, write “None”. Do not leave blank spaces.

  • Your application must be properly signed and filed with the correct fee. If you are under 14 years of age, your parent or guardian may sign your application. 

  • If you are not sure how to fill out the form or answer a particular question, there is a lot of help and guidance available on this website itself. If that does not answer the question, please post it on our discussion forums. If your question is still not answered, please seek legal help (we cannot provide this).

  • Always tell the truth. You may be tempted to lie on the form—maybe to ignore a previous marriage, an illegal stay in the U.S., prior visits to the U.S., to hide any grounds of inadmissibility, etc. However, if you lie, you may be in bigger trouble than the problem you are lying about. USCIS or consular officers get very angry when they discover that you lied to them. Before you lie or if you have a complicated case, it is best to hire a lawyer who may be able to find the best way for you to be honest on the application and still have it approved.

  • Fees: Most applications require a filing fee. Make sure to send the correct filing fee, if required (more details).

  • Photographs: Many applications require one or more photographs to be submitted with the form (more details). Do NOT staple photographs to applications. Place them in a separate envelope and attach the envelope to the related application in the lower left corner. Photographs must be taken within 30 days of filing the application to USCIS.

  • Copies: If the instructions state that a copy of a document may be filed with the petition, submit a copy. If you choose to send the original, USCIS may keep that original for their records. If USCIS requires the original, it will be requested. 

  • Forms Entry Pages (FEPs): Requirements of immigration forms change often, but USCIS does not update the forms each time. Instead, they provide Forms Entry Pages (FEPs) before you access the form. It is very important to check before filing the form that you have the latest instructions. Before you can access any form on our website, you will be taken to FEP.

  • Small Items/Attachments: If small items or documents are being submitted, place them in an envelope, and list the contents on the outside of the envelope.

  • Keep a Copy: Always make a complete photocopy of the application package that you submit. You can quickly resubmit a duplicate application if the original is lost or if you need to bring an error to USCIS’s attention.

  • Notice of Appearance – Form G-28: Attorneys and other approved representatives of applicants/petitioners must file Form G-28, Notice of Appearance. The G-28 must be properly completed and signed by the affected party. The term “affected party” refers to the petitioner or the applicant, depending on the type of request. The signed G-28 should be stapled to the top of the form being filed. If multiple applications are submitted for other family members or for different applicants/petitioners, make sure that a separate G-28 is submitted for each affected party. To minimize the potential for error, the G-28 should be attached to each and every application and petition filed.

  • Cover Letters: Attorneys may wish to submit a cover letter outlining the benefit sought and identifying the attached supporting evidence. This can be very useful to the adjudicating officer, especially if the wrong block is checked off on a visa petition. Visa petitions are frequently rejected and occasionally denied because the petitioner appears to be filing for a benefit not authorized by law, i.e., a lawful permanent resident petitioning for a sibling. It should not be assumed that the adjudicating officer will instantly recognize the merits of the case or that she/he will automatically understand the entire request unless you provide a clear explanation of the benefits/actions sought.

Fillable Forms

Most of the forms are fillable online. In other words, they are provided in a format such that they can be filled out on your computer. You will not be able to file an application or petition via the Internet. You just fill out the form and print it. You need to mail the printed form to the appropriate USCIS office just as if you wrote it by hand.

You are not required to print the forms in a specific color or in a specific configuration like head-to-head or head-to-foot, long-edge, short-edge, etc. You can print the forms normally as you would print with your printer. However, using a dot matrix printer is not advised.

All the forms require Acrobat Reader, available for FREE.

Adobe reader

You will NOT be able to save the data that you enter on your own computer if you just have the free version of Acrobat Reader. You require full Adobe Acrobat for that. This is the functionality of Adobe, and there is nothing we or anyone else can do about it.

Name Change

If either you or the person you are filing for is using a name other than what is shown on the relevant documents, you must file your petition with copies of the legal documents that effected the change, such as a marriage certificate, adoption decree, or court order.


If any document is not in English, it must be submitted along with a full English translation (more details).

Assembling The Application

For most forms, your application package should be assembled in the following order:

Fee payment
Form G-28 (if applicable) 
Application or petition with photos in attached envelope (if applicable) 
G-325A (if applicable) 
Other evidence 
Supporting documentation 

This order would work for I-90, I-102, I-129F, I-130, I-131, I-140, I-212, I-290, I-360, I-526, I-539, I-589, I-612, I-690, I-694, I-695, I-698, I-724, I-730, I-751, I-765, I-817, I-821, I-824, I-864, and Motions.

Wherever there are more detailed or specific instructions for a given form (in forms I-129, I-485, N-400), they are provided in the appropriate section.

Mailing The Application

  • Mark both the envelope and the cover letter as to the nature of the submission. Example: ORIGINAL SUBMISSION – BRIEF FOR AN APPEAL – RESPONSE TO REQUEST FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION – etc. 

  • Use the appropriate mailing address, and mark both the envelope and the cover letter with the form type. Example: I-129; I-130; I-690; I-698, etc.

  • Provide both the receipt notice number and the A-Number as identifiers, if they are available.

  • If the packet is being resubmitted in response to a REQUEST FOR ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE, please place the notice requesting the additional evidence/information on the top of the packet. Also, please use the special mailing envelope provided. 

  • If evidence is being submitted in support of a previously filed appeal or motion, a cover letter stating “BRIEF FOR APPEAL”, etc., should be placed on top of the packet. 

  • In preparing your packet, please take note of the following:
    1. Do not use binders or folders that cannot be easily disassembled. 

    2. Use ACCO fasteners to hold together thick or bulky applications or petitions. Two-hole punching the top of the material for easy placement in the file is appreciated. 

    3. The use of tabs assists in locating items listed as attachments. The tabs should be placed on the bottom and not the side for ease in filing.

    4. Avoid using heavy-duty staples; instead, use ACCO fasteners or heavy clips.

    5. Avoid submitting originals unless specifically required (labor certifications, etc). Avoid submitting oversize documentation when possible.

  • If you are sending more than one case in an envelope, clearly separate the cases using a rubber band or clip fasteners.

  • A form G-28 is not acceptable unless signed by the authorized representative and the petitioner (for petitions) or the applicant (for applications). Facsimile signature stamps are acceptable for the signature of the representatives. However, applicants/petitioners must physically sign the initial Form G-28 submitted with the application/petition. Any subsequent Form G-28 relating to the same case may be a photocopy of the original, which should be already attached to the relating case.

  • Send copies of any prior approval notices with any new requests for extensions of stay, change of status, or amended petitions.

  • Keep copies of all submissions. Don’t assume the officer will have access to a prior file or record. Submit as complete a packet as possible so the case can be adjudicated from what you submit. Submit a complete packet of information for each petition or application. If officers have to review prior files or records, the adjudication of the case can be delayed substantially. 

  • Be sure to complete all pertinent items on the petition or application. Ensure all entries on the forms are legible. Note the appropriate consulate or embassy, or a request to adjust status on the petition. Do not enter “N/A” when “None” is appropriate.

  • If you believe your situation to be unique, explain it fully in an attachment to the packet, not as a cover letter. 

  • Please submit certified translations for all foreign-language documents. Look at the Translation section above. 

  • USCIS does not routinely require submission of original documents or “certified copies.” Instead, ordinary legible photocopies of such documents (including naturalization certificates and alien registration cards) will be acceptable for initial filing and approval of petitions and applications.

    At the discretion of the officer, original documents may still be required in individual cases. Please be advised that USCIS does not return original documents submitted, with the exceptions of Certificates of Naturalization, Forms I-551, Permanent Resident Cards, Forms I-94, Arrival/Departure Documents, valid passports, or those specifically requested by the officer. Such documents will be returned when they are no longer needed.

  • Reminder: The best way to locate records is through the receipt number and/or the A-Number. Always provide this information whenever possible. If you don’t know the A-Number, provide a COMPLETE name and date of birth. ALSO: Provide ANY AND ALL names used by the individual, including aliases, maiden names, names used when originally admitted to the United States, etc. Providing this information is extremely helpful and speeds up the processing time.

  • DUPLICATE FILINGS (without fee): Cases will be accepted as a duplicate filing only when USCIS has specifically requested that a duplicate be filed. In such a case, be sure to submit the receipt number of the original filing or any copies of notices received from USCIS on the first filing when submitting a duplicate petition or application. 

  • The address block on the forms is the data field captured for all of our mailings. Consistent with the limitations on the number of characters per line (a maximum of 32) and the total number of lines (4) in that field, whatever is in the block will become the mailing address used by the system. The data in these fields is entered exactly as indicated on the forms. Please include internal routing symbols in the address block, especially for large organizations. It is better to abbreviate the name of the organization and have space for the routing codes than to fully spell out the name and have notices sit in the organization’s mail room.

  • Recognized Authorities: Many I-129 petitions filed with evidence of the beneficiary’s education or accomplishments include documentation submitted by various authorities. For example, petitions for artists and entertainers may include evidence the beneficiary has received an award or other recognition of achievement. Petitions for individuals employed in a specialty occupation may include evidence that the beneficiary belongs to a professional organization. When an individual’s awards or membership is used to support a petition, evidence establishing the reputation of that organization must also be submitted. Examples of the type of evidence needed include the size and standing of the organization, the organization’s requirements for membership, and any other documentation which would establish the reputation of that organization.

    When an opinion from a recognized authority is submitted, the opinion should state: the writer’s qualifications as an expert; the writer’s experience giving such opinions, citing specific instances where past opinions have been accepted as authoritative and by whom; how the conclusions were reached; and the basis for the conclusions, including copies or citations of any research material used. 

  • Any application or petition for an individual currently in F-1 status needs to include evidence that the student has been maintaining status and has been authorized employment, if applicable. Such evidence usually can be satisfied by submitting the latest Form I-20AB/I-20ID and a copy of the employment authorization card.

  • To the extent possible, please avoid using strapping tape on all four sides of an envelope (if you can, please leave one side free of tape). While using this tape may add some protection against harm while it is in transit, it does make the package difficult to open when it arrives.

Processing The Application


Any application that is not signed or is not accompanied by the correct application fee will be rejected with a notice that the application is deficient. You may correct the deficiency and resubmit the application. An application is not considered properly filed until accepted by USCIS. 

Initial Processing

Once an application has been accepted, it will be checked for completeness, including submission of the required initial evidence. If you do not completely fill out the form or if you file it without required initial evidence, you will not establish a basis for eligibility, and USCIS may deny your application.

Requests for More Information

USCIS may request more information or evidence. USCIS may also request that you submit the originals of any copy. Originals may be returned to you, if requested.


You will be notified in writing of the decision on your application.


If the application is denied, you will get a letter from USCIS explaining why it was denied. While you can’t appeal to a higher authority, you may submit a motion to reopen/reconsider their decision with the office that made the unfavorable decision. 

A Motion to Reopen

It must state the new facts that are to be provided in the reopened proceeding and must be accompanied by affidavits or other documentary evidence. 

A Motion to Reconsider

It must establish that the decision was based on an incorrect application of law or USCIS policy, and further establish that the decision was incorrect based on the evidence in the file at the time the decision was made.

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