No Photo Date Stamp: No Visa
Photographic prints, showing the date when a photo was taken (Datestamping, normally on the bottom right corner), are increasingly hard to find today. While many generations of film cameras had this capability, most digital cameras do not. Even though datestamping is becoming rarer, it seems it is also becoming more IMPORTANT for immigration purposes.
Datestamping is Important for Immigration
One of my clients submitted photos without date stamps to USCIS. A few months later his petition was pulled from the processing que and an RFE (request for evidence) was sent to him. It read:
Though you have submitted photos of you with the beneficiary, they alone do not establish that you have met the beneficiary in person within the two-year period immediately preceding the filing of the petition. The photos are not electronically date stamped, so it is not possible to determine if the meeting was within the two-year period.
During the last 5 years he had made three trips to China. the first five years ago, another 3 years ago and the last one 1 year ago. His first face to face meeting with his fiancee took place during the last trip. So far so good. He submitted evidence of the trip from 1 year ago, the plane tickets, passport entry stamps, and the photos of he and his fiancee.
There are many eligibility requirements to be approved for a Fiancee Visa.
One requirement, is that the couple has had a “face to face” meeting within the 2 years prior to submitting the petition.
The RFE was sent because immigration was not confident that the photos they received were actually taken during the recent (eligible) trip. They suspect that the photos may be over two years old, taken during an earlier trip. Since photos are really the ‘best’ proof of a ‘face to face’ meeting, we were in trouble. We had to scramble to find additional proof that the meeting really took place.
IF the photos originally presented each had a date stamp, this would NOT
have happened. The process would not have been halted, not delayed, and no
‘cloud’ would have been attached to the petition.
Why are Date Stamps so rare?
In the old film days, most cameras came with a feature that could imprint a date stamp onto the photo. It was done by exposing the film with a small embedded LED display that could be turned on or off. Most digital cameras no longer have this function. However, date, time and other information IS retained. It is stored in the digital file ( .jpg, jpeg, gif) of the photo as embedded data, called EXIF tags. This means that the digital files of your photos STILL has the important information you need.
Digital datestamps can be resurrected
It is possible to extract the date from the EXIF tag, and then print it onto the
visible part of your photo, and it will look exactly as if you used an old film camera.
There are many software programs available to do this. The program can take each ( .jpg, jpeg, gif) , read the date information (EXIF tag), then paste the date onto the ‘front’ of the image, and finally save as a modified (.jpg, jpeg, or .gif) digital file. When your modified photo files are printed, the datestamp will be right where it belongs, where it can HELP your visa case.
All petitions benefit by datestamping
It is true that if you got your first passport, only ever traveled once, and that
was solely to meet your partner, date stamps would not be strictly necessary. If you only were there one week in October, that MUST be when all photos were taken.
However you should take the ‘long view’ you should planning that photos will again be needed for the Green card application, and if ‘heaven forbid’ your petition is delayed or denied, and more ‘face to face’ meetings, would be needed. Having your photos ALL have date stamps, will guarantee your petitions to immigration will be more convincing and won’t raise red flags.
For those who have many trips overseas, or who are together for extended visits, datestamping is even more important. This is the best way to provide definitive proof of the course of your courtship, and to tell the story in a thorough and easily understandable fashion.
There is much software on the internet that you can use to recover and print the EXIF data on your photos. With time, patience and savvy you can probably achieve this yourself.
By Fred Wahl
Fiancee Visa Coach