A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration lawyer. We serve clients in all U.S. states and overseas countries. (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Do I Need to File the AR-11 Form?

"Do I need to file the AR-11 form?" 

"Do I need report my change of address?"

These are two very common questions that clients ask frequently.  The law is pretty clear on this issue. I am surprised that many foreign nationals do not know that they are obligated to report their change of address.  Unfortunately, even some school advisors or Designated School Officials (DSOs) do not know about this rule.

Section 265(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) mandates that:

Each alien required to be registered under this subchapter who is within the United States shall notify the Attorney General in writing of each change of address and new address within ten days from the date of such change and furnish with such notice such additional information as the Attorney General may require by regulation.

Section 237(a)(3)(A) of the INA further makes a foreign national's willful failure to report one's change of address a deportable offense:

Change of Address:  An alien who has failed to comply with the provisions of section 265 of this Act [8 U.S.C 1305] is deportable, unless the alien establishes to the satisfaction of the Attorney General that such failure was reasonably excusable or was not willful.

Who must report a change of address?  All "aliens".  No, we are not talking about the monsters from movies. Unfortunately, the INA continues to use this disparaging term to describe any persons present in the United States who are not U.S. citizens.  That means all foreign nationals including F-1 / M-1 students, temporary workers such as H-1Bs and L-1s, and even U.S. green card holders must report their change of address within 10 days.  

How can one report an address change?  File the AR-11 form from USCIS.gov.  It can be filed online or by mail.  Be sure to keep a copy of it and any confirmation email.  

"But I don't have a pending application, why do I have to file the AR-11 form?"  It does not matter if one has no pending applications with USCIS, the obligation to report address changes is an independent legal requirement.   

If you have a pending application with USCIS, remember to enter the application receipt number in the AR-11 form so that you may properly receive documents from USCIS regarding the application. 

Some F-1 students believe that since they already reported their address change on the SEVP portal, they do not need to file the AR-11 form.  Sadly even some school DSOs are confused about this. After 911, Congress created the SEVP system to specifically manage and keep track of F, M & J students and visitors in the U.S.  It imposes a new set of requirements for these nonimmigrants to follow.  However, it does not diminish the students' obligation to file the AR-11 form.  

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