January 28, 2020
Q. I recently filed an application to adjust my immigration status to legal permanent residence, based on my marriage to a US citizen. We have not yet heard from US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) about an interview with them to decide my case. Meanwhile my wife and I are planning to move soon to a new apartment. We will be filing a change of address notice with the US Postal Service so our mail will be forwarded to the new address. Will mail from USCIS reach us at our new address?
A. No. It is very likely that the Postal Service will not forward mail from USCIS, because of security concerns. Unfortunately, at IIIC we hear from immigrants who moved to a new residence and have been waiting a long time for some communication from USCIS, only to learn later on that a piece of important mail was returned to USCIS as undeliverable. For this reason, immigrants often miss USCIS deadlines because they fail to respond to an important mailing from USCIS that they in fact never received. They learn later that USCIS deemed their application to be abandoned, and therefore denied.
You certainly don’t want that to happen to you. So what should you do? First, practically all non-US citizens residing in this country for 30 days or more, not just those with pending applications, are required to file a notification with USCIS within ten days of an address change. This includes legal permanent residents (green card holders) but not people with A or G visas.
There are two ways to do this. First, you can file online by going to uscis.gov for an AR-11 form and following the instructions. Second, you can choose instead to use the simple, one-page AR-11 form that you can download from the uscis.gov and mail it to the address shown on the form. There is no fee for filing an address change.
It is very important to understand that if you have an application pending, there is an additional step that you need to take. You must inform USCIS directly of your address change so that the officers processing your case will mail future communications to your new residence. You can do this either by filing online as indicated above plus following the additional instructions pertaining to people with pending cases, or by calling the USCIS help line at 1-800-375-5283 and providing your address change information.
Remember: If you choose not to use online filing, just informing the Postal Service and mailing the AR-11 form is not enough if you have a case pending with USCIS. You need to contact the agency about the pending case as soon as you move.
For record retention purposes, keep proof that you complied with the address change requirements by: (1) if you mail the AR-11 form, you should keep a copy and mail the signed original by certified mail, return receipt requested, or by priority mail and (2) if you file online you should record the confirmation number you receive, and you should print out the page with the information you submitted, and sign and date it. Keep all such records in a safe place.
A further note: In cases where an applicant has a financial sponsor who submitted an affidavit of support (Form I-864) in his/her case (such as usually happens where an immigrant has a US citizen or legal permanent resident spouse or other petitioning relative), the sponsor (not the immigrant) also has an obligation to file a change of address form when the sponsor’s address changes. The form for this purpose is I-865, and no fee is required.
For a free, confidential consultation about this or any other aspect of immigration law, come to one of our legal clinics advertised monthly in Boston Irish online.
Disclaimer: These articles are published to inform generally, not to advise in individual cases. Immigration law is always subject to change. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services and the US Department of State frequently amend regulations and alter processing and filing procedures. For legal advice seek the assistance of IIIC immigration legal staff.