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What Every Foreign National in the United States Should Know About Reporting a Change of Address
Editor’s note: The following information is reprinted with permission by Frost Brown Todd LLC, which serves as outside counsel on immigration issues for Miami.
What the Law Says. Federal law requires all foreign nationals (including both persons in temporary visa status and lawful permanent residents) to notify the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS") in writing within 10 days of the date of a (residential) address change. [Title 8 United States Code §1305]. Failure to comply with this requirement is a misdemeanor and can subject the foreign national to a fine of up to $200 and imprisonment of up to 30 days. In addition, INS may initiate removal (deportation) proceedings. This obligation, together with the possible penalties, remains in effect until the foreign national departs the United States or becomes a U.S. citizen.
U.S. law also allows foreign nationals to establish to the satisfaction of the INS that failure to report a change of address was reasonably excusable or was not willful, so as to allow the INS the discretion not to impose the harsh consequences mentioned in the previous paragraph. Historically, the INS has not regularly enforced the law’s change of address requirements. However, in the post September 11th world, it is prudent to comply as completely as possible with each and every provision of the U.S. immigration law.
AR-11 Change of Address Notification. If you move to a new address, you and each family member (who is not a U.S. citizen) should complete an INS "AR-11" form, sign and date it, and mail it to the INS within 10 days of an address change. We strongly recommend that you maintain a copy of the signed and dated form, together with proof of mailing, for your records. The most conservative approach would be to mail the AR-11 to the INS via certified mail, return receipt requested and to keep the receipts with your copy of the form. You may find the AR-11 form at the INS’ website at http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/formsfee/forms/files/ar-11.pdf.
G-731 Notification, in Some Cases. If you are in the final stage of the permanent residence process in the United States (known as "adjustment of status"), you should submit to the INS a second notification by submitting a "Form G-731" to the INS service center handling the adjustment of status application. Each INS Service Center uses its own version of the G-731 as follows: G-731V for the Vermont Service Center; G-731N for the Nebraska Service Center; G-731T for the Texas Service Center; and G-731C for the California Service Center. The G-731 is a two-page form: one page is a "general inquiry" page and facilitates (among other things) notification to INS of a change of address. The "permanent resident card inquiry" page is not relevant for address change reporting purposes and should not be used.
Clarifying the Law. The U.S. Attorney General’s Office plans to publish a proposed rule to amend the immigration regulations to provide clear notice to foreign nationals of both their obligation to provide their current address to the INS during the time they are in the United States, and the consequences of failing to do so. The INS will subsequently update close to three dozen forms to ensure that foreign nationals are fully aware of this obligation.
A Final Note. For those of our clients who have changed addresses and have not filed the required written notification with the INS within the prescribed 10 day period, we recommend filing the notification as soon as possible thereafter. Late compliance is better than no compliance.
Information contained herein has been gathered and prepared by Frost Brown Todd LLC but does not constitute legal advice. This publication does not and is not intended to identify all developments in immigration law that may affect the reader's particular case. Readers should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of this material without consulting an attorney. Transmission or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Copyright © 2002 by Frost Brown Todd LLC. All rights reserved.
Date Published: 12/05/2002