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General Guidance for Filing

USCIS relies exclusively on plain old, printed documents. In fact, USCIS requires only original signatures on its forms (although they are now accepting "reproduced original" signatures), which can otherwise be downloaded, copied, etc. but make sure the original copy has an indisputably original signature in the required places. Any material not in English must be accompanied by an English translation or summary (word for word translations are not always necessary to prove your point), together with this certification:

I, [name], certify that I am fluent/conversant in the English and [language] languages, and that the above/attached document(s) is/are an accurate translation(s) of the original document.
Date: ___________ Signature: _________________

Any responsible person can sign the certification.

Picayune details abound, but attention to them will minimize mailroom errors, facilitate the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) examiner's life and redound to your benefit. 

  • Do not submit taped or other electronic media to USCIS because it has no means of viewing or listening to such items.
  • USCIS will gladly take legible copies of all documents, even faxes, including labor consultations and other supporting documentation. Indeed, USCIS would just as soon receive 8-1/2 x 11 copies (fax copies are fine) of anything that in its original format - oversize documents, photos that don't fold, bulky brochures bound to one side - impedes the examiner's handling of the petition.
  • Submit all required documentation at once. Once the petition/application is submitted, forget trying to send in any additional information, except in response to a USCIS request for additional information. If you omitted something critical, consider re-filing (with new fee) to save time, and withdrawing the old petition.
  • Separate voluminous exhibits by plain paper inserts referenced as Exh. 1, 2, 3, etc., correlated to the petitioner letter. Supply an index for voluminous exhibits.
  • Sign all forms in blue ink to eliminate any question whether the signature is an original. Although USCIS has made permanent what had been a temporary flexibility in accepting a "reproduced original signature" on documents, including the Form I-129, petitions may still wish to err on the side of caution and use blue ink or some method that conveys visually that the signature is original and not the result of a stamp, auto-pen, or other type of device.
  • Mark the outside of the envelope of an initial filing "I-129/O-1B[O-2, etc.]." If an extension of stay or change of status is involved, add "w/ES" or "w/COS."
  • See the USCIS Service Center Tips and Contact Information for the address to send your regular or premium-processing visa petition. We encourage the use of air courier services because of the tracking ability.
  • Send principal and support petitions in the same envelope.  Clip them together with a binder clip, but attach separate checks to the petitions.  Similarly, submit any accompanying I-539 applications at the same time, accompanied by separate checks.
  • If you have any special requests or instructions, consider printing them on a red sheet and placing that sheet on top of your filing.

Always include a return air courier mailer at the time of your initial filing. USCIS is getting better at using them. USCIS prefers FedEx, but will use other prepaid envelopes. Include your valid account number, and be sure to indicate your own information as both the sender and recipient, noting that this information must match the contact information for the petitioner listed on the I-129. Note, also, that the mailer must be submitted either with a pre-paid billable stamp or a pre-paid shipping label affixed to the package; USCIS service centers will not accept return mailers that have a handwritten waybill or computer-generated waybill.