The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently changed its policy regarding the scheduled destruction of all Permanent Resident cards, Employment Authorization cards (EADs), and travel documents are returned as undeliverable. The agency published a brief News Alert on this update last week announcing that, as of April 2, any of the aforementioned immigration documents returned to the USCIS by the U.S. Postal Service will be destroyed after 60 business days.
Formerly, the USCIS held on to these documents for a full year. The agency has yet to offer any explanation for this newly shortened time frame.
This announcement marks the latest in a series of immigration policy reforms enacted by the USCIS since the Trump Administration took office. On February 22, the USCIS announced a crackdown in the ongoing effort to combat H-1B abuse. That same day, USCIS Director Lee Francis Cissna published a memo announcing an official revision of the agency's mission statement - one that notably lacked the words "nation of immigrants" and "customers" in its language.
With this new 60-day destruction policy fully in effect as of April 2, there are a few steps of precaution that can be taken to ensure you and your foreign national employees receive the documents applied for.
Protecting Immigration Documents
If the USCIS isn’t provided with a correct address for a document’s intended recipient (within the 60-day interim of being returned), the document will be destroyed. It's imperative to remember that, with very few exceptions, non-U.S. citizens are required to report any change of address to the USCIS, within 10 days of moving. The reporting process varies depending upon whether the visa recipient has pending petitions or applications with the USCIS.
Applicants with no pending petitions or applications need only file an Alien’s Change of Address Card (Form AR-11), and this can be completed either online or by mail.
Applicants who do have pending petitions or applications, on the other hand, must complete two steps that include filing the Form AR-11 and changing the address on any recently approved petitions or applications. Both of these steps can be accomplished online, and once the Form AR-11 is completed, the applicant will be prompted to complete the second step. Alternatively, applicants can physically mail the Form AR-11 to the USCIS and then change the address on pending documents over the phone at 1-800-375-5283 (or at 1-800-767-1833 for TTY).
Implications From the New Policy
The immigration journey is notoriously complex and tedious. As such, it’s crucial to remain vigilant throughout. Once relevant immigration documents such as EADs, Permanent Resident cards, and travel documents have been approved, it signals an end is in sight. If these documents are destroyed because they’ve been returned to the USCIS as undeliverable, it represents a significant setback.
Maintaining a current and accurate address with the USCIS is an essential step toward successfully navigating the immigration process. The mayhem that often accompanies a move isn’t necessarily conducive to taking care of every bothersome detail, but this one is important.