Obtaining Records for AWA Matters
Pulling records can be pretty straightforward once you know the ropes. It takes time and
regular follow up.
Why does USCIS want to see the records?
The obvious answer is that USCIS wants to review them. However, the answer goes a bit
deeper. USCIS wants to understand the criminal records in detail and from the point of
view of the victim, the police, and the prosecutor. It wants to hear what the judge or
probation officer had to say about whatever incident arose.
As for treatment records, USCIS wants to learn in detail what you confessed to and
whether the treatments were effective. What topics were covered, how many sessions,
and for how long? Was it group or individual counseling, etc.? We can talk about what is in
the records and how to position your case. But, the first step is to get the records so that
all the details are on the table for consideration.
Who pulls my records?
1. You, the Client: The petitioner was subject to court proceedings and would be
more familiar with criminal records at a particular courthouse than the
immigration attorney. It helps for you to make the first effort to try and pull
records according to instructions below. Some clients do not have the time or
inclination to pull their own records. But, your effort to be involved produces
the best results. Let us know if you will not or cannot help pull your own
2. Criminal Defense Attorney: Sometimes, you can reach out to your criminal
defense attorney or a different one who can help you pull records in a particular
location. Make contact and see what you can get.
3. Our Law Firm: We can help as needed. However, consider that criminal records
come from all over the world and the 50 states. We are a federal immigration
law firm. Our attorneys are not licensed to practice law in all states. As such,
we’re unfamiliar with particulars of how records are kept in the various court
houses around the country or overseas. Courthouses keep records in various
formats. It’s not always easy to read them. If we are to help, we can play a good
supporting role and can likely be effective. It saves you money if you are able to
work independently. The ultimate obligation to pull records remains with the
4. Court Runners: There often are companies near the courthouse or treatment
centers where you underwent proceedings. Those companies can help obtain
court records for you. Court runners typically only help obtain court records, no
other types of records. But, you can also search online for “Attorney Assistance
Service” or “Process Server.” See what comes up in the area where you need
records pulled. We can also try to help locate a suitable service as needed.
Sometimes, these services will only work with attorneys. Try calling one or more
and ask whether they are available to work directly with you. If you find a good
one and they will only work with an attorney, let us know. Sometimes, these
services will only work with attorneys. Try calling one or more and ask whether
they are available to work directly with you. If you find a good one and they will
only work with an attorney, let us know.
What records should be pulled?
For each type of record, request a complete copy of your file.
1. Court records
2. Police records
3. Probation records
4. Treatment records (related to your case)
5. Sex Offender Registration records
Note 1: It’s best to try and pull records directly from the courthouse, police department,
or probation department first. If you have trouble obtaining court, police, and/ or
probation records, the state Department of Corrections will sometimes have a
combination of all 3.
Note 2: Sex offender registration records normally do not contain the following:
Violation(s) of registration requirements and why
Removal from Sex Offender Registration Board
Evidence of rehabilitation
Court records would likely have these.
Note 3: The most important records are any that relate to the AWA offense or any felonies.
The second most important offenses are any involving harm, such as assault or domestic
violence. Records for other minor offenses such as drunk driving should be obtained, but
perhaps just enough to learn what the case was about and the outcome. Records for arrests
that do not result in a conviction should be pulled, sufficient to show the allegations and
Note 4: Some believe that obtaining an expungement will avoid the need to pull criminal
records for immigration purposes, but it doesn’t. It’s often difficult to obtain criminal
records that have been expunged. The expungement is always good. However, please be
sure to obtain a complete copy of all criminal records for immigration purposes, whether
or not expunged.
What types of records are we talking about?
Certified or Official Records: USCIS asks for certified or official records. “Official" is not
defined, but generally means a response provided by an agency on letterhead, or tracking
your efforts and responses from that agency. For example, if an agency requests that you
submit an email inquiry, save your email communications along with the records. Although
USCIS typically requests “certified” records, we’ve not yet had a case denied when we
submit copies that are not certified. But, that doesn’t mean your case will not be the first
to be denied for that reason. Do the best you can because some cases may end up in court.
Tip: Get certified copies of records if you can afford it, but don’t stress too much if the cost
seems unreasonable and you don’t want to do it. Of course, if you sense that a particular
document is important and can afford to get that one certified, then do it. An example
would be your plea, which can include the facts upon which you pled.
Unavailable Records: Records are considered unavailable when there is a diligent search
for them that fails. The person who attempts to obtain certain records (yourself, attorney,
a court runner, etc.) should provide a sworn affidavit summarizing the attempts.
Sealed Records: Sealed records are not necessarily unavailable. For example, court
records that involve a minor victim are often sealed. It helps to learn what it takes to
unseal them. Sealed records that cannot be obtained for US immigration purposes are
“unavailable.” We need to show that the sealed records cannot reasonably be unsealed
and obtained for this case.
Police Records:
Tip: Pull a complete copy of your police records, also known as police reports.
These can usually be pulled directly from the police department where the offense occurred.
If one cannot be obtained, please ask for a statement from the department clearly addressing
the crime, and confirming records are unavailable.
Court Records:
Tip: Pull a complete, plain copy of your court records. You can decide if some
documents should be certified. Specifically, USCIS wants the following court records:
Indictment filed in court against you;
Any amended indictment, modifying the charges;
Any plea struck;
Any conviction by trial, judge or jury;
o If a conviction is after trial, try to get the jury instructions and findings by the
judge or jury.
Any presentence report by probation;
Your criminal sentence, including sentencing terms;
Probation or parole report that you successfully completed your sentence;
Evidence of rehabilitation. Statements from judges or probation officers about your
rehabilitation are extremely helpful. An expungement is helpful; and
Any evidence of dismissal or finding of non-guilt.
For some records, you may need to contact the probation or parole office as noted below.
Treatment Provider Records:
Tip: Pull a complete copy of your treatment records. More specifically, USCIS wants the
records indicating successful completion of counseling or rehabilitation programs.
Such records may include documentation showing:
The beginning and ending dates of the petitioner’s treatment program
The total number of hours and sessions attended
An explanation for any failure to attend or participate in particular sessions
The structure of sessions
The goals/ objectives of the program/ plan
The methods used to achieve the goals of the program and USC's treatment plan
A description of progress
Assessments of rehabilitative status at the beginning, during, and at the end of the
treatment program
Try to obtain a letter from the treatment provider outlining the above points, and/or any
records in support.
SORB Registration Records:
Complete copy of all State Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) forms. Registration records
means registration forms.In other words, you want to collect a complete copy of all the
registration forms you have submitted to all police departments or registration departments
in the past. These forms were likely initialed by you and contain your signature and/or
fingerprint marking. You should pull forms from all locations you’ve ever registered.
Probation/ Parole Records:
Discharge letter from probation or parole. Typically, it’s a single document. It’s either in your
court records, with the parole or probation office or, as a last resort, with the state
Department of Corrections office. See also the Court Records section above.
Evidence that you are rehabilitated, which can include:
Comments from judges, probation/parole, or treatment providers; and
Release from registration or from public display.
Tip: Pulling records for an AWA matter can be more work for some than others. So, focus
on easy things first and make a to-do list for yourself.
Let me know if you have questions or need assistance with AWA processing. We can set up
a phone appointment.
888.483.0311 ● 888 Prospect Street, Suite 200, La Jolla, Ca 92037 ● www.asl-lawfirm.com