United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced the discontinuation of its recently implemented practice of sending original Form I-797 Notices of Approval directly to petitioning employers and individual applicants, with courtesy copies of these notices sent to attorneys or authorized representatives. USCIS will return to its prior practice of sending Form I-797 Notices of Approval to attorneys of record or authorized representatives, with courtesy copies sent to petitioners and individual applicants. This change in process has apparently been prompted by the feedback that USCIS stakeholders provided, explaining the inconvenience and other inefficiencies that had resulted from the new practice. The prior practice will resume in approximately six weeks, after USCIS has made necessary software changes in its system.

Background

In September 2011, USCIS changed the way in which foreign nationals, employers, and attorney representatives were notified of petition and application approvals. Prior to this change, attorneys of record received Form I-797, the official Notice of Approval issued by USCIS, with a courtesy copy sent to the employer and/or individual applicant. Without notice, USCIS adopted a practice of sending original approval notices to employers or individual applicants, with attorneys receiving courtesy copies. The new system caused much confusion and required petitioning employers to take extra precautions to ensure that original Forms I-797 sent by the USCIS were delivered to them.

What This Means for Employers

Although the USCIS’s reversion to its prior practice appears to have already been implemented, with some attorneys receiving original I-797 Notices of Approval, petitioners and individual applicants may continue to receive such notices until the appropriate changes have been made to the USCIS’s software system. As noted above, it may take up to six weeks for the necessary changes to be made. Until then, all employers filing petitions and applications with the USCIS are advised to make sure that they have appropriate systems in place for the receipt and handling of notices received directly from this agency.