Here are some of the worst mistakes immigrants make applying for legal papers

U.S. immigration applications can be complex and cumbersome, so it’s always better to work with a licensed immigration attorney. But their legal services can be very expensive, and many immigrants opt to go through the process alone.

However, mistakes are common when filing immigration forms, and the applications can therefore be delayed or denied by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

These are some of the worst mistakes filling paperwork that should be avoided at all costs, according to USCIS:

Failure to sign a document

Without a signature, the document is automatically rejected and returned.

Using outdated forms

USCIS recommends downloading forms directly from its website, filling in the information requested electronically and then printing them before sending them to its offices.

Leaving parts of the questionnaire blank

All forms must be completely filled in.

Using colored ink or illegible writing

The forms must be filled in with black ink and in clearly legible lettering inside the spaces provided.

Read more: Be careful with your green card or visa application. A mistake can now get you deported

Don’t use highlighters or correction liquids

USCIS scanners can’t easily read text that has been highlighted, crossed out or written over correction fluid or tape.

Submitting forms with corrections

USCIS recommends starting over with a new form instead of trying to correct a mistake.

Failure to repeat vital information

Regardless of how many forms are being submitted, each one must carry the full name of the applicant, date of birth and Alien number (A-number) if available.

Paying the wrong fee

Problems with benefit petition fees, specifically sending incorrect payments, are a constant reason for denying immigration petitions.

USCIS launched a online tool in January to calculate the correct fees for the forms being submitted.

“USCIS is focused on offering support to those applying for immigration benefits. Everything from the tips on our website to our online tools such as the fee calculator, are meant to make the process as easy as possible,” said Ana Santiago, the agency’s spokesperson for South Florida.

Read more: What to do if an Immigration or Border Patrol officer confronts you

Preparing the packet

Once the forms have been filled in, applicants can make mistakes putting together all the documents and supporting materials that are sent with the main petition.

USCIS pointed to these key mistakes:

Binding the documents

USCIS employees need to be able to easily separate the documents, so avoid folders and binders.

Stapling the documents

The agency recommends using paper clips instead of heavy-duty staples. If the package is too thick, it’s preferable to punch two holes on the top of the material.

Sticky labels

It’s OK to use them but put them at the bottom of the page, not the sides.

Original documents

Do not submit original documents. Submit photocopies, unless originals are specifically requested.

Read more: A basic requirement to get a green card has changed — and it helps legal immigrants

Submitting large files

It’s preferable to avoid oversized files, unless absolutely necessary.

Mixing documents from different cases

If the applicant is submitting two cases in the same envelope, it’s important to separate them clearly with either a rubber band or butterfly clips

Sending the package to the wrong location

USCIS may reject and return applications or petitions that are improperly filed.

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