In today’s environment we are often moving from place to place, sometimes locally, sometimes afar. As an alien you are required to keep DHS updated on your address changes. This notification must occur within ten days of the move. This section of the law is found at INA Sec. 265. There are different forms involved in this process, an AR11 is used to notify USCIS of address changes and an AR33 is used to notify EOIR (Immigration Court) of address changes when a person is in removal proceedings.
An address change on the AR11 form can be done by mail, online at USCIS.gov and by telephone. We recommend that it be done all three ways, as sometimes the mail is slow to be input into the database, or phone calls are not reliable. When sending an address change by mail, it should be sent in some type of trackable mail method, such as certified mail. This is your proof that you notified the immigration office that you moved.
If you fail to notify immigration of an address change willfully you may be charged with a misdemeanor which carries a $200 fine and possible imprisonment pursuant to INA Sec. 266(b). However, it is extremely important to change the address when an application is pending, as immigration offices DO NOT forward mail. If you are waiting for an interview notice, fingerprint notice and don’t receive it, this can be the reason why. So, when an important document, such as an Employment Authorization Document or a Lawful permanent resident card is mailed out to an old address, it will not be forwarded through U.S. mail. Instead the document is returned to USCIS and destroyed. This is done in an effort to prevent fraudulent use of immigration documents and to further protect your immigration case. While you can reapply for such documents, you most certainly will experience lost time and efforts.
Further if you fail to notify immigration offices of an address change and you are placed into removal proceedings, you may have a Removal Order entered against you since you failed to show up for your hearing. This can occur, even if you had no knowledge of the hearing date. The only way to determine if this has occurred is to contact the EOIR customer service line at (800)898-7180. However, in limited circumstances, if a Removal Order is entered in your absence, “In absentia” you may be able to reopen your case.