On October 20, 2011, USCIS announced that it will return to its previous practice of sending original I-797 receipt and approval notices to the attorney of record or accredited representative’s address, as listed on the Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative. USCIS will resume mailing “courtesy copies” to the address provided by the applicant or petitioner on the relevant application or petition form (i.e., to the employer and/or foreign national). 

This reinstatement of the previous I-797 mailing procedure apparently came in response to “an unintended negative external impact,” caused by USCIS’ implementation of a processing change, effective September 12, 2011: USCIS began sending original receipt and approval notices directly to applicants and petitioners, while the attorney of record or accredited representative received courtesy copies, if a Form G-28 was on file. This procedural change represented a major shift in USCIS’ method for notifying foreign nationals, employers, and attorney representatives of application and petition receipts and approvals. 

What Does This Mean for You, the Employer?

This return to USCIS’ previous policy of sending original notices to attorneys and copies to applicants or petitioners will take effect in approximately six weeks. The September 2011 policy shift remains in effect so that, for pending cases, original approval and receipt notices will be mailed by USCIS directly to petitioning employers and applicants (dependent family members) until such time as USCIS reprograms its system. All petitioners and applicants will need to be especially vigilant and watch closely for any original notices received from USCIS. In addition, it is important to:

  • Ensure that the address we have on file for you is correct and that all address changes are timely submitted to prevent lost notices and/or undeliverable mail;
  • Take additional precautions to ensure that the original Forms I-797A are safeguarded – do not discard the original notice and inform your company’s mail room not to dispose of any mail from USCIS and to direct USCIS mail to the appropriate individual at the organization in a timely fashion; and
  • Contact your counsel to advise that you have received an original approval.