Strong support letters can be very helpful in immigration, particularly when seeking naturalization (citizenship), a waiver of something that prevents you from obtaining a visa to enter the country, or when fighting removal (deportation). Strong support letters are critical if there is anything in your background that may lead to discretionary denial of the benefit or relief you are seeking. A number of solid support letters may favorably influence the consular or immigration officer or judge, and are well worth your time to arrange.
Consider asking your current and any past employers, family members who are U.S.citizens or legal permanent residents, the elected officers of any organizations to which you belong, friends and neighbors– in short, anyone who can provide a good character reference for you.
What makes strong support letters?
The letter should include the following details:
- The immigration status of the author or writer (e.g., U.S. citizen, Legal Permanent Resident, non-immigrant)
- The nature of the relationship (Example: friend, relative, co-worker, supervisor, etc)
- The length of time the author has known the applicant (e.g., 10 years, 2 months, etc)
- The author’s contact information: address, telephone number and/or email address
I am a U.S. citizen and I have been Mr. X’s employer for the past five years.
The purpose of the letter is to provide a good character reference for you, and may include details concerning your involvement with charitable causes or other volunteer/religious activities, anecdotes concerning the applicant’s actions to help friends and neighbors, or stories showing your dependability and care of family members. Alternatively,a letter may present a specific economic, emotional, or other hardship the author of the letter will face if denied the specific immigration relief or benefit being sought.
When do you need strong support letters for immigration purposes?
You may need to include or provide strong support letters:
- To help prove a relationship (e.g., bona fide marriage, fiance relationship, biological father/child relationship when the parents were not married)
- To provide evidence of “good moral character” for citizenship applications
- In waiver requests, i.e., when seeking a waiver of a ground of inadmissibility
- When fighting removal (deportation)
- As confirmation of employment or residence
- As evidence of the emotional/physical abuse for a victim of domestic violence seeking an immigration benefit
- For individuals seeking asylum or refugee status – confirming a credible fear of persecution
- To help support a request for humanitarian aid
- To support a “DREAMer’s” Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals request for protection from deportation
Where do you get strong support letters?
Letters from employers should be on company letterhead, and letters from organizations should be on the organization’s letterhead, if one is available. All letters should be originals, if possible, and signed by the author in blue or black ink.
The few minutes it takes to request a support letter from a friend, employer, or colleague may mean the difference between achieving your immigration goal and missing it, and you may be surprised how many people are willing to help you.
SCHEDULE A LEGAL STRATEGY SESSION FOR ASSISTANCE WITH YOUR SUPPORT LETTER
By Carolyn Mason, Contributor, and Tanya M. Lee, Esq.