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AR-11 Change of Address: Why Is It so Important?

Haroen Calehr Nov. 25, 2012

Any alien within the US must notify USCIS (US Immigration and Citizenship Service) of their new address within (10) days on form AR-11 which can now be filed on line at www.uscis.gov.

Why is this so important and whose affected? Any alien, whether a legal permanent resident (green card holder) or non-immigrant visa holder, e.g. (B-1/B-2, H-1B, H-2A & H-2B , F-1, J-1, L-1A/L-1B, etc) MUST notify the government of their new address change. Foreign government officials working and living in the US at a foreign embassy or consulate on an (A) (diplomatic) and (G) (United Nations) non-immigrant visas are exempt. 

Not timely notifying USCIS within the 10 days is not a violation of one’s immigrant visa per se, or failure to maintain status rendering some one out of status like a visitor on a B-2 non-immigrant visa taking up employment without permission, or an F-1 international student working of campus without permission from USCIS, and the Designated School Official of their university, or F-1 student falling out of status and taking less then 12 credit hours a semester for instance making them out of status, i.e. illegal and in violation of US Immigration laws.

BUT, it makes a non-immigrant deportable which prior to 9/11 was never even given a second thought by aliens and USCIS alike.  However, in the post 9/11 climate, the landscape has changed dramatically. The legal bar though is somewhat high for this drastic consequence to be triggered, i,e an alien must have “willfully and without reasonable excuse” failed to give written notice (via form AR-11, either hard copy of online).  Willfully means having knowingly and intentionally ignored one’s legal duty and requirements.  “Without reasonable excuse” is somewhat of a lower standard but one’s innocent mistake   remedied immediately upon learning of one’s mistake ought to be reasonably excused BUT conversely ignorance of the law is no excuse.

USCIS or its law enforcement arm ICE will usually utilize the AR-11 violation a secondary reason of deportation of an alien in court to further bolster their case against the alien for an underlying case.  If an alien has pending applications in the pipeline with USCIS for an affirmative benefit its even more imperative to timely file an AR-11 since by law the US Post Office is barred from forwarding mail from USCIS to a new address.  This means that if an alien is anxiously awaiting their EAD-Employment Authorization Document or Travel Document to enable them to accept lawful employment, apply for a Social Security Number and State ID or Driver’s License, they will not receive these document(s) since the US Post Office is required by law to promptly return the items to the sender, i.e. USCIS, who usually after one (1) month will destroy the document(s) unless they timely hear from the alien about their new address.

Ten (10) days is not a lot of time but having enabled on line filing has made this previously AR-11 based paper form easier to file than ever with minor minimal information such as one’s “A” alien number, DOB, Name, current/new address, previous address, and if applicable the pending receipt numbers form USCIS for a benefit sought.

Its also important to print out proof of the on line change of address application with its unique case/receipt number and date of filing.  Don’t adversely affect your important immigration status for such a minor infraction as not timely changing your address, especially since its so user friendly and easy to accomplish within less then 5 minutes.

The unfortunate events of 9/11 have forever changed our national landscape and a minor past infraction is now a serious violation with potentially severe consequences.