The USCIS continues to expand its Direct Mail program. The Direct Mail program is part of an overall effort by the USCIS to transition the intake of applications from the USCIS Service Centers to USCIS Lockbox facilities. The USCIS stated that it believes that centralizing form and fee intake allows the agency to provide the public more efficient and effective initial processing of applications and fees. The USCIS previously indicated that it will be transitioning all filings to the Direct Mail program within the next six months.

Within the past two weeks, the USCIS has transitioned three form types to the Direct Mail program, namely the Form I-824, the Form I-102 and the Form I-765. The change of filing location for the Form I-765 became effective on February 24, 2010. The USCIS has established two additional primary lockbox processing facilities in Pheonix, Arizona and Dallas, Texas. These facilities are in addition to the USCIS National Benefit Center lockbox facility in Chicago, Illinois. Most of newly transitioned applications will be filed with either the Phoenix or Dallas lockbox facilities. However, exceptions do exist to this rule for each form type. Therefore, applicants must thoroughly review the USCIS website prior to filing any application to confirm that they are filing in the correct location. The USCIS is allowing for a 30-day grace period in which applications that are incorrectly filed will not be rejected but instead will be forwarded to the correct location. However, after the 30-day grace period, applications that are not properly filed will be rejected. If an application is rejected because it was not properly filed and the applicant misses a deadline due an incorrect filing (e.g. an F-1 student incorrectly files for a STEM OPT extension and his/her regular OPT expires while waiting for the USCIS to return the rejected application), the applicant may lose the opportunity for an immigration benefit and/or it may affect the applicant’s immigration status.

After the USCIS lockbox facility accepts the application and inputs the application information, the application will still be adjudicated by an officer at one of the USCIS Service Centers. The USCIS has also implemented an option to receive e-mail notification from the USCIS lockbox facility after the application is received if the applicant submits new Form G-1145 with the application.