USCIS to Mail Form I-797 Approvals Directly to Petitioners, Not Attorneys
October 4, 2011
The USCIS has changed its previous policy of mailing original Form I-797 receipt and approval notices to attorneys. Without advance notice, the USCIS on September 12, 2011 began mailing the Form I-797 for all types of applications and petitions including H-1Bs, I-140s, and I-485s directly to the applicant's or petitioning company's address, even when a Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative, is included. Later that month the USCIS issued a memorandum to stakeholders advising of the change and indicating that it had considered a temporary suspension of the new policy, most likely in response to criticism that stakeholders were given no advance notice. The memo stated, however, that a temporary suspension would be impractical "due to the estimated four-to-six-week delay associated with the required systems adjustments." The USCIS instituted this change in policy to ensure that employers and applicants would receive original notices.
Petitioners may choose to provide the attorney's address in lieu of their business location on the USCIS forms, though the USCIS memo advises that this could cause a delay in processing. The memo also suggests that if an attorney address is used, the petitioner should include a cover letter that clearly indicates the address of the business so that a manual check in the Validation Instrument for Business Enterprises (VIBE) system can be conducted to confirm a company's location.
Petitions filed through Premium Processing may provide an alternate address for mailing original approval notices if a pre-paid, self-addressed mailer is included.
If you have questions about this new USCIS policy, please contact WSM.