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Why was my immigration petition denied?

August 27, 2023
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For many, the prospect of gaining permanent residency in the United States is a dream. You file a petition for status in the United States with so much hope, imagining a future where you can be safe and prosperous in your adopted country. However, receiving a notice from USCIS telling you that your immigration petition has been denied can turn that dream into your worst nightmare. For a prospective immigrant who receives a denial notice, the chief question will always be: why?  

The answer is not always so easy to understand. Filing a petition for status in the United States can be a deeply stressful task, regardless of whether you are trying to adjust your status based on a family petition, filing a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petition, or seeking protection through a T or U Visa. Often, it feels like these processes are deliberately confusing. If that’s you, you are not alone. That’s why it is absolutely vital to begin your immigration process with a highly experienced immigration lawyer by your side. Immigration law is highly complex and ever-changing. At Eagan Immigration, our attorneys spend their days navigating the ins and out of this complicated system. There are few situations they have not had to navigate at some point in their careers. Eagan attorneys can also help you avoid these common pitfalls that most often lead to denial:  

 Seven Reasons Why Your Immigration Petition May Have Been Denied 

  1. You made an error in filing a petition. Immigration paperwork is tricky, and it is easy to make a mistake, especially if you are not familiar with the terminology USCIS uses. If you’ve made a mistake somewhere within the numerous forms you’ve been asked to fill out, or perhaps not submitted required payments or documents, your petition may be rejected or outright denied.  
  2. You are not eligible for the petition you applied for. Each type of immigration petition has different requirements, and understanding the specifics for each can be tricky. Details that might seem inconsequential, such as the specific dates and circumstances of your entries to the United States, can completely change whether you are eligible for some types of petitions. Entries and exits made before April 1, 1997, for example, are treated differently than entries made after these dates. It is complicated by design, and if you do not have an attorney who understands all the nuances in the law, it is easy to make a mistake. Mistakes can mean you waste your money and years of your time waiting to hear back about a petition that you were never qualified to receive in the first place. 
  3. You have not met the burden of proof for the type of petition you’ve applied for. Even when you are indeed eligible for a specific type of visa or waiver that will allow you to gain status in the United States, you still need to prove it. USCIS is going to look at every petition with a certain level of skepticism, so it is up to you (and, ideally, your skilled legal counsel) to convince them that you deserve approval. To manage this, you need to understand exactly what it is you are trying to prove. For example, an I-601A petition required you to prove extreme and unusual hardship to a qualifying relative, not just normal problems that arise from separation. If you find that your petition has been denied, it is possible that USCIS does not believe you have provided sufficient evidence to support your case. You may receive a Request for Evidence from USCIS before denial, which gives you a second shot to make your case. If you do not meet the standard of proof they are looking for after that, however, you can expect a denial.  
  4. USCIS does not believe your marriage was made in good faith. For a marriage-based petition, applicants must provide ample evidence that their marriage was made for love, not an immigration benefit. That means providing evidence of your courtship and marriage, which could include family photos, proof that you live at the same address, joint bank accounts or bills demonstrating your shared life together, declarations from each partner describing your relationship, or affidavits from others testifying that your marriage is legitimate. For the average person, it is rarely easy to know what documents to include in your petition. That’s where a lawyer comes in. At Eagan Immigration, we file dozens of petitions on behalf of our clients each month. We know what documents you need to avoid having the legitimacy of your marriage questioned. 
  5. You have a criminal history that makes you ineligible. Everyone makes mistakes. Some past criminal convictions are minor enough not to affect your immigration status, but others can represent a serious concern when your case comes before an immigration officer. Crimes involving “moral turpitude” – meaning crimes against people such as assault, sex crimes, child abuse, kidnapping or other violent offenses – will usually disqualify an applicant. Drug trafficking can likewise disqualify you. That’s not to say that you are completely out of luck if you have a past criminal conviction, but whether or not you are able to get your criminal history waived will depend on a variety of factors, including circumstances, the time since your offense, and what proof you can offer that you have rehabilitated yourself. When beginning the immigration process the most important thing is to be transparent. No matter how minor a crime was or how long ago it took place, you need to make your attorney aware of it. Yes, that means speeding tickets too! Knowledge is power, and if your attorney is aware of your past, they can help you figure out how to move forward. If not, you are at risk of having your petition denied.  
  6. You misrepresented yourself as a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident at some point in the past. USCIS takes the issue of misrepresentation seriously, especially if you portrayed yourself as a U.S. citizen in order to gain an immigration benefit. This is another case where it is absolutely vital that you work with an experienced immigration attorney, because they will know the right questions to ask to figure out if you’ve ever misrepresented yourself. In some cases, it may not even be obvious that you’ve done this. For instance, you could be making a false claim to be a U.S. citizen simply by checking the wrong box on a job application. If you ever claimed to be a legal permanent resident at a border crossing, this will be treated the same way. Waivers are sometimes available for misrepresentation, but a lawyer can only help you file these if you are open with them about your past. Do not make the mistake of thinking USCIS will not find out about something you’ve done, because failure to disclose can result in a denial. 
  7. You have past immigration violations. The rules governing inadmissibility to the United States are extremely complicated, and decisions made in the distant past can have an outsized impact on the fate of your immigration petition now. If you have ever been in removal proceedings in the United States, that will impact your ability to be approved later, even on a family- or marriage-based petition. In many cases, an immigration attorney can make an argument to secure you a waiver. They can also petition to reopen your old case and have it vacated, clearing the way for a future adjustment of status. However, as with all the above situations, if you do not plan adequately ahead of time, you are in danger of getting denied.  

So what do I do if my immigration petition is denied?  

No immigration cases is a “sure thing,” no matter what anyone tells you. USCIS issues denials across the United States every day. If you receive a denial, however, do not despair. While this is a difficult situation, not all hope is lost. Your attorney can help you file an appeal of USCIS’ decision, or even resubmit your petition with corrected information or new evidence. In other cases, your immigration lawyer can help you determine if a different type of petition would be a better fit for your situation.  

Whether you are just beginning your journey to seek status in the United States or are coping with a recent denial, the most important thing you can do is find a skilled immigration attorney who can help you understand your options. Your future in the United States is far too important to leave in the hands of anyone other than a professional.  

Regardless of where you are in your journey to achieve legal status in the United States, Eagan Immigration is eager to help. Talk to an immigration specialist today at 202-709-6439.