On or about December 1, 2011, USCIS will reverse its prior policy of sending approval notices to company petitioners. The prior policy that went into effect on September 12, 2011. During this interim period, USCIS has not been sending the original I-797A Approval Notice with attached I-94 card directly to the attorney of record after immigration filings. Instead, USCIS has been sending the approval notice and I-94 card directly to the company petitioner.
The I-797A Approval Notice with attached I-94 card are issued by USCIS after USCIS approves certain petitions and applications, including, but not limited to, initial H-1B petitions, H-1B extensions, H-1B Change of Employer petitions, H-4 applications and extensions, L-1/L-2 extensions, etc. The combined I-797A notice and I-94 card is the official approval notice that dictates the lawful period of stay for the beneficiary.
During this interim time period until USCIS returns to sending approval notices to attorneys of record, employers should consider using some of the strategies listed below:
- Be on the lookout for mailings from USCIS. For large companies, it would be prudent to notify the mailroom to look for mail from USCIS. Mailroom personnel should be instructed to handle such documents with care and to promptly deliver such mail to the individual within the organization responsible for overseeing immigration filings.
- Make a copy of the I-797A Approval Notice for the company’s records, and scan and email a copy of the I-797A Approval Notice to the attorney of record responsible for filing the underlying petition.
- Provide the original I-797A Approval Notice with attached I-94 card to the foreign national employee, and inform the foreign national employee that the I-797A Approval Notice and the attached I-94 card dictate the period of lawful stay in the United States.
- Instruct the foreign national employee to make a copy of the I-797A Approval Notice and to file it with his or her important records, and that the I-797A Approval Notice and I-94 card should be kept with the foreign national employee’s passport. Inform the foreign national employee that, if he or she moves, the foreign national is required by law to notify USCIS of the address change, and such notification should occur within ten days of the move.
- Remind the foreign national employee that the I-797A Approval Notice and I-94 card, by themselves, do not allow the employee to reenter the United States after traveling abroad. In order to reenter the United States after traveling abroad, the foreign national employee will need a valid visa in his or her passport. The I-797A Approval Notice will be required as part of the visa renewal process, and visas can only be obtained at a U.S. Embassy or consulate abroad.
- Create a tickler system and log the expiration date of the employee’s nonimmigrant status. Contact immigration counsel at least six months in advance of the expiration of the employee’s nonimmigrant status so that plans can be made to extend the employee’s status.