Forgetting to file, or making errors when filing your change of address Form AR-11 with USCIS can lead to deportation. We have seen clients who say, “we did everything right, how can a change of address form lead to deportation?”
Still we have to step in because they are facing removal.
Here is what you need to know about filing your change of address form.
WHAT IS FORM AR-11 AND HOW CAN IT LEAD TO REMOVAL (DEPORTATION)?
Form AR-11 is a change of address form that must be filed by immigrants within 10 days of moving to a new address. The form takes about 5 minutes to complete. Even if the move is from one temporary address to another, you must file the form with USCIS right away. Filing a change of address with US Postal Service is NOT sufficient.
THERE ARE THREE WAYS TO FILE YOUR CHANGE OF ADDRESS (DEPENDS ON TYPE OF CASE)
- You can submit your change of address online
- You can call USCIS’s customer service number, 800-375-5283
- You send a letter to a local immigration office, there is a list of addresses here.
You can download a copy of the form AR-11 from USCIS here, but first I highly suggest you read to the end of this post. It sounds simple: you can just download the form, or fill it out online, but we have seen this simple procedure go very wrong.
According to the law, willful or intentional failure to file your change of address with USCIS is a misdemeanor that can be punished by a fine of up to $200 and up to 30 days in jail. You can actually be removed /deported for failing to give USCIS a new address, unless you can prove that the failure to report a change of address was “reasonably excusable” or not intentional (accidentally). While that sounds reasonable, this leaves a lot up to the control of whomever you are trying to convince on any given day, and the burden to prove your innocence falls to you.
WHO IS REQUIRED TO NOTIFY USCIS WHEN THEY MOVE?
- Temporary visa holders: Most visa holders need to tell USCIS within 10 days of moving.
The exceptions to this are:
-Official government representatives working at international organizations
-Visitors with a visa waiver who are admitted in the US for less than 30 days
- Permanent residents: All permanent residents (green card holders), whether they have conditional two-year cards, regular ten-year cards, or some of the older green cards of indefinite duration, are required to update their addresses with USCIS.
- U.S. citizens: U.S. citizens only need to file the AR-11 if they have submitted Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, for a foreign national. The form must be filed within thirty days of moving.
DO I REALLY HAVE TO FILE A CHANGE OF ADDRESS AR-11 EVERY SINGLE TIME I MOVE? EVEN IF IT’S TEMPORARY?
Yes. You do. In order to avoid any problems with USCIS you must file an AR-11 within ten days after ANY move. Even if you just filed new paperwork with your new address, you must still file an AR-11.
WHAT HAPPENS IN WORST CASE SCENARIO, EVEN WHEN AN AR-11 IS PROPERLY FILED AND CONFIRMED?
One of my clients was a US citizen, who fell in love and got married to a woman from another country. His new wife filed the appropriate papers to get her green card. While the couple waited to be interviewed by Immigration, the husband was transferred by his company. Before moving, the couple informed the Immigration Service that they were changing their address using the AR-11 change of address form. They received confirmation that Immigration knew they had relocated. The green card interview (not a deportation hearing) was mistakenly scheduled in the state where the couple had previously lived. When they failed to show up for the interview, a notice for the wife to appear at a deportation hearing was also sent to their old address. Of course, the woman didn’t know that she had to go to court. So, she was ordered deported for failure to appear in court.
BUT SHE FILED THE AR-11 FORM!!! HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?
The system is far from perfect. Mistakes get made. But it gets worse. Immigration and Customs Enforcement located her and took her to a detention center to prepare to deport her. The US citizen hired us to get his wife out of jail and stop her deportation. We got her released after many weeks and eventually secured her green card.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I FORGET TO FILE A CHANGE OF ADDRESS WITH USCIS?
First off, do not panic. While forgetting to file, or the errors listed above can lead to removal/deportation, it is unlikely that you are being tracked down for removal. Resources are limited, and human error does exist. That said, as I have outlined above, people have done the RIGHT thing, and still wound up in detention. If you have forgotten to file your AR-11 just make sure you do so ASAP, especially before any form of naturalization proceedings. The real issues begin if you have missed any portion of your proceedings. If you are in any way concerned, contact an immigration lawyer who can help you navigate through any issues.
WHAT CAN I DO TO AVOID ANY PROBLEMS? TIPS FOR FILING YOUR AR-11
- File your AR-11 and get confirmation. Do this right away after moving, this is no joke for immigration. Take it very seriously.
- Use certified, registered, or receipt mail so that you can show proof to any agents if there are problems in the future. Write down, or screen shot, AND PRINT the confirmation number if you have applied online.
- Make sure you fill in the form completely. Get help from an expert if you are having problems with it.
- You only need to report your LAST address, not all your last addresses.
- Do not submit one form for an entire family. Each member of the family needs their own form.
- Check with the local USCIS office, and call USCIS National Toll Free Customer Service to make sure that there have been no errors, and that they know where you are. Double check.
- Try to stay put ( do not move) while your application is pending. Sometimes USCIS requests more information, or schedules an appointment.
- Mistakes still happen: get postal forwarding on your mail, and check in at your old address if possible, as well as keeping a communication open with USCIS.
- Seriously consider a consultation with a top, experienced immigration attorney. All immigration matters, even those which appear easy, are often complex to non-experts.
If you have any questions regarding Form AR-11, or any other immigration-related issues, please do not hesitate to contact me straight away.