USCIS to destroy undeliverable green cards and work authorizations

USCIS to destroy undeliverable green cards and work authorizations

On April 3, 2018, the USCIS announced that it will start destroying green cards and work authorizations that are returned to it as “undeliverable.” If the document is returned, the person has only 60 days to contact USCIS and update their address.

Many times, people file for immigration benefits, such as green cards, work authorizations, petitions, adjustment of status, etc.  While the petition or application is pending, they move to another address and send a postcard to the Post Office to forward mail from their old address, thinking this is sufficient to ensure receipt of mail from their old address.  It is not.

First, the address change to the Post Office may only be valid for one year, after which the Post Office will return mail to the sender.  Many immigration benefits take longer than one year.  Therefore, notifying the Post Office alone is not enough to protect you. Instead, you need to advise the USCIS directly of your address change, either online or by mail and make sure you have written confirmation of USCIS’s receipt of your address change request. Making a phone call to them will not document the fact you notified them, as there is no written record.

And the consequences of not informing the government of an address change can be severe. As they warn, they will destroy green cards and work authorizations returned as undeliverable.  In addition, the USCIS may serve a Request for Evidence (RFE) years after a petition is filed, asking for additional information or documents.  A person is typically given 87 days to respond.  If the person moved, but did not notify the USCIS, the RFE will be returned as undeliverable, and the person obviously would not have responded. The case would then be denied due to “abandonment,” and it would be difficult to have it revived or reopened.  In the meantime, the person is waiting for years (at their new address) for their petition approval or green card processing, totally unaware their case was denied.

And the same is true for notifying the National Visa Center (NVC) of address changes. Once a petition is approved, and the person will process for their immigrant visa abroad, the case is sent to NVC to be put in storage until the priority date is current, which may be years away.  When the priority date is close to being current, the NVC will start sending notices, forms, and fee bills to the person at the last address they have on file, which may be the address when the petition was filed. The person is given one year to respond to the NVC’s notices, and if no response is received, NVC will shred or destroy the file, and the priority date is lost.

Therefore, even if you advise USCIS of your address change, if your case is at the NVC, you must also notify NVC to avoid your case being terminated.

If you filed your case years ago, or your green card never arrived, you should consult with an immigration attorney, who can look into the matter, track down the document, and hopefully make sure your case was not denied or terminated due to non-response.

Michael J. Gurfinkel has been an attorney for over 35 years and is licensed, and an active member of the State Bars of California and New York. All immigration services are provided by, or under the supervision of, an active member of the State Bar of California. Each case is different and results may depend on the facts of the particular case. The information and opinions contained herein (including testimonials, “Success Stories”, endorsements and re-enactments) are of a general nature, and are not intended to apply to any particular case, and do not constitute a prediction, warranty, guarantee or legal advice regarding the outcome of your legal matter. No attorney-client relationship is, or shall be, established with any reader.

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