What is Form I-797?
Form I-797 is sent to immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants to inform them that their application has been received or approved — which is why it is sometimes called a “receipt notice” or “approval notice.”
Pretty much every document received or sent by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has a form number — including green cards which you’ll find marked as Form I-551. Not every form needs to be filled out, as is the case with Form I-797, Notice of Action.
In this guide, we’ll define the various types of Form I-797, each of which is meant to communicate information regarding USCIS benefits.
Form I-797, Notice of Action, is a letter sent to those who have recently filed an immigrant or non-immigrants application. This notice of action will either confirm that the government has received the application or it will contain the immigration officer’s decision to approve an application or petition. It’s always a good idea to hold on to this letter, as you may end up needing it to prove eligibility for certain benefits.
Anyone who isn’t a citizen or permanent resident will receive an arrival/departure record (Form I-94) upon their entry into the United States. Form I-797A, Notice of Action, serves as a replacement for Form I-94, when the latter is not available. This notice of action may be sent if, for example, a person changes their address while in the United States.
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Those seeking an employment-based immigration visa, such as an EB-2 or EB-2 NIW, will need to file Form I-140 (officially called the “Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers”). The petitioner will receive Form I-797B, Notice of Action, if their I-140 has been approved.
Note: This notice does not come with an arrival/departure record (Form I-94).
Form I-797C, Notice of Action, may be sent to notify an applicant or petitioner when their application/petition has been:
This notice may also contain information regarding an upcoming appointment, whether it be for an interview, fingerprints, or biometrics. It’s very important to read all the information in Form I-797C, as it may contain essential instructions. Failure to read the letter could, for example, result in a missed appointment, which could greatly delay the process.
You can expect any Form I-797C distributed after April 2, 2012 to be printed on paper and to contain the following text at the top of the page: “THIS NOTICE DOES NOT GRANT ANY IMMIGRATION STATUS OR BENEFIT.” While it does not grant benefits, Form I-797C may be used as evidence for certain benefits given at the state and local levels. So it’s a good idea to hold on to this notice, even if it was sent prior to April 2, 2012.
Sometimes a USCIS officer may need more evidence to make their final decision regarding an application or petition. In this case, they may send a Request for Evidence (RFE). This request is sent in a letter known as Form I-797E, Notice of Action. Anyone who receives this letter should be sure to track down the requested evidence and submit it within the designated period of time.
RFEs can lead to delays in the application process. For this reason, you should do your best to avoid them. To learn more about preventing an RFE, read our article on the subject.
Applicants who are abroad may use I-797F, Transportation Letter, to travel to the United States. Green card holders, for instance, may need to get a transportation letter if, while abroad, their card has been stolen, lost, or destroyed. They can do this by filing Form I-131A (officially called the “Application for Travel Document (Carrier Documentation)”).
As per the filing instructions for Form I-131A, the transportation letter may be used to board an airplane, but it does not guarantee admission into the United States. That decision lies, ultimately, with the U.S. Customs Border Protection (CBP) officer. It should also be noted that Form I-797F does not replace a green card. The permanent resident will need to apply for a replacement green card through the normal channels.