Informing Immigration About Change Of Address
From time to time people move from one address to another. While it is not a big deal for a U.S. citizen, for somebody who is not a citizen, and maybe not even a permanent resident, the move may have drastic consequences in connection to their Immigration status. Being in a rush, having a lot on your plate, not knowing how to do it… does not excuse an individual from updating their address as soon as possible with the Immigration court or USCIS. In fact, if one’s case is pending with the Immigration court, he / she has to file a change of address form with the court within 5 working days of move.
USCIS requires that the change of address be reported within 10 days via form AR11. The only exception to this rule is reserved for the following groups:
- Diplomats (visa status A),
- Official government representatives to an international organization (visa status G), and
- Certain non-immigrants who do not possess a visa and who are in the U.S. for fewer than 30 days.
It is important to let the court, USCIS or ICE know timely of your move. When one has a case pending in a civil court or family court, the service of the papers in such proceedings usually has to be made “personally”. This is not the case for Immigration cases. Currently, the proper service of Immigration documents is obtained via regular, or first class mail… and simply saying that you did not receive the notice is not a defense to removal. Under INA 239(a)(1), 8 U.S.C. 1229(a)(1) notice to the respondents last known address on file ( or telephone) is sufficient service. However, some years ago, USCIS or former INS was required to serve people via certified mail. While this might have costed the government a little more money than the first class mail, the rights of the people were served better.
On the other hand, if you did submit a change of address form, but the papers were sent to the old address, you can successfully argue that the USCIS (or an Immigration court) did not serve you properly. This may be very helpful when one finds out that he/she was ordered removed in absentia.
If you have an attorney working on your case, you will never have to worry about this as even if you fail to report your last known address to USCIS in time for the next Notice of Action I-797: your attorney will receive a copy as well and will let you know about the upcoming deadlines. In fact, the court will always check first if there was/is an attorney on the case, as the service on attorney of record is as good as service on a person himself. If the attorney did not let you know about the deadline, you can file a complaint about this and might be able to restore the missed deadline.
Recently, USCIS changed their G-28 Notice of Appearance as Attorney of Record to include an option to send all correspondence including Employment Authorization and Permanent Resident Cards to your attorney’s office. While I always recommend receiving the original documents yourself and have an attorney to receive only a copy of all correspondence regarding your case, this can be a great benefit to an individual who has difficulty with mail ( busy apartment buildings, potential family disputes, any situation that will result in you not being able to get your permanent resident card when it is mailed to you).
If you are an unlucky holder of an order of removal in absentia, you should consult with an attorney prior to undertaking any attempts on “legalization” in the U.S. Many of such orders are valid, and will be enforced, causing physical deportation...