Oh! Getting that Document is Impossible!

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I can’t get those documents no way, no how. Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States at our offices in St. Louis, Missouri, San Diego, California, and Washington DC. Dealing with a lawsuit client this week, and she’s been asked to provide some original documents from her home country back in Africa. And there’s a great tool for anybody who’s applying for an immigration benefit. And this tool works. If it is an overseas case, this tool works if it is a case for adjustment of status or citizenship or some kind of other process that takes place here inside the United States at USCIS. And that tool is called the visa reciprocity schedule.

Reciprocity means to acknowledge two ways, and the schedule means the whole plan, the whole list of documents. And so, the US State Department has gone through, country by country, and identified what original documents are available from each home country. For instance, they’ll tell you what kind of birth certificate is available. They’ll tell you what kind of a death certificate is available. They’ll break it down by region. They might break it down by civil versus religious. They might break it down by parts of the country or different agencies. And they’ve gone through each document type and each country. UWCIS or the State Department is trying to decide whether or not to approve an application, they go ahead and they look at the visa reciprocity schedule. If I had to establish a hierarchy of what they pay attention to the visa reciprocity schedule is the highest.

Now, in this particular instance, we were talking about a marriage certificate from a country back in Africa. This client had obtained a statement from a lawyer/notary, back in the home country, saying that we can’t get a marriage certificate with a seal, and we don’t get a marriage certificate from the Ministry of Justice. Well, you know what? The State Department says that you can get a marriage certificate with the red seal, a wet seal, and that you can get it from the Ministry of Justice. So on the one hand, we have some attorney back in the home country saying, “No. In Gambia, you cannot get the Ministry of Justice to issue you a marriage certificate, and you can’t get it with a wet seal,” but at the same time, we have the state department who has gone through and said, “Yes, you can.”

This is all in response to a notice of intent to deny. So, the government has already telegraphed that they are placing greater weight on the State Department versus what this attorney says. So this idea that you’re going to be able to convince them and not give them what they want is a head-scratcher, because, the federal government, they get to decide. They are the winners, and we will be the losers. So I pushed back on my client and I said, “You need to find someone else to try and go get you that marriage certificate with the proper wet seal from the Ministry of justice.”

That’s what I do when I hear from a client, “Oh no, no way, no how, can I get that document.” I push back. I encourage them to find another lawyer in the town, or the village, or the country to go get them the records. Because if the State Department says it’s available, it doesn’t matter if in fact it’s not available. If the State Department says that it is, you’ve got to get it. You got to do everything humanly possible to get it. And what we have right now, I don’t think is going to cut it, and I think the case might be indeed headed towards a denial.

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