Guide to Form I-797

Posted by Frank Gogol

Back in 2018, 28% of the U.S. population was made of immigrants – respectively 89.4 million people. With so many people, a lot of them had to go through USCIS who oversees lawful immigration to the U.S. USCIS has to answer 50,000 phone calls to their toll-free phone line, while serving 2,200 people at informational appointments in all their domestic field offices – 86 in total. So, it’s safe to say that a huge number of applicants came in contact with Form I-797. If you don’t know what it is, this article will explain it.

Read on to learn more, or check out our video What is Form I-797? USCIS Notice of Action!

Form I-797 Notice of Action

Form I-797, Notice of Action, is a form sent to someone who has submitted an application or petition to the USCIS. Basically, this is sent to you once the people at USCIS have received your application, which usually happens after 2-3 weeks. The most important thing to know about Form I-797 is that it serves multiple purposes.

For example, it may be sent to inform you about the approval of your application, or it may ask for extra evidence for your application to be approved. In some other cases, it can also tell you when your scheduled appointment should take place.

It’s also important to know how Form I-797 looks, so you know if you’ve received one. Basically, this form has its top left-hand corner imprinted with a number that has three letters at the beginning. After the three numbers, there are ten digits. On the lower end of the form, there is a replacement I-94 card. On the form, you will also find a description of the action you requested, as well as your name, visa classification approved and validity dates.

Types of Form I-797

As mentioned previously, Form I-797 can be received for various reasons. This is why there are multiple types when it comes to this form and we’ll explain them below:

Form I-797 – Standard Notice

In case you receive this particular form I-797, then it means USCIS is notifying you about the approval of your application or petition. Of course, you should be aware that this isn’t the actual document that you need – it’s nothing but a receipt. It cannot be used for jobs, travel or anything of the sort. In addition, as USCIS specifies, “Form I-797 is NOT a form you can fill out.”

Despite not being able to be used for any of these purposes, you still need to keep a copy of this receipt so you have evidence in case something happens. This form gives you information about your application, and it also allows you to track your case on the official USCIS website.

Form I-797A – Replacement for an I-94 Form

This form is not that different from the regular I-797 form. The difference is that this one is used as a replacement for an I-94 form, with the bottom serving as the official document.

Basically, this form is meant for foreign people who want to come to the U.S. and is also known as the Arrival-Departure Record. On the document, you will find the date to which you are allowed to stay, the admission class, and the date of admission.

Form I-797B – I-140, Petition for Alien Worker

If you are an immigrant who wants to work in the U.S., the chances are that you submitted Form I-140. If that’s the case, then you will receive Form I-797B. This will give you details about your application, like information for admission to the U.S. and many other things. There will be some instructions too.

Form I-797C – Important Information

Form I-797C is usually sent to give you some important information. To be more specific, it will inform you in case of a scheduled/re-scheduled appointment, transfer, re-opening or rejection. It is probably the most common type of Form I-797 sent to applicants. You should read this paper very carefully because it will tell you what you should do next with your application.

Make sure you don’t end up ignoring or misunderstanding certain aspects of this form. This may lead to delays, and you don’t want that.

Form I-797D – Accompanies a Benefit Card

With Form I-797D, you will receive a benefit card in general. You don’t really need to do anything with this form, but you should still make sure to keep it for potential evidence. Keep in mind that this form includes a green card or another official document usually.

Form I-797E – Request for Evidence

You may have applied to the USCIS, but even if you submitted some evidence, it may not be enough to give you approval. That being said, USCIS will ask you for additional information, which is usually asked for through Form I-797E, called the Request for Evidence.

If you read this form, you will notice that it says there may be a potential problem with the evidence you’ve sent, or that there wasn’t any evidence provided. Read it carefully and follow the instructions on it. You should meet the time limit too, or else your application may be rejected.

Form I-797F – Travel Permit

Form I-797F is the most unique one of the bunch. Unlike the other forms, this one can be used for travel, as it’s a Travel Permit. Make sure to follow the instructions the document gives you, and you will be able to travel.

Does the Form I-797 Grant Any Specific Immigration Benefits?

Usually, this form is just a receipt that shows that you’ve submitted an application for a particular benefit. So, USCIS hasn’t determined if you would be eligible to receive immigration benefits.

But once USCIS establishes that you are eligible to receive the benefit for which you submitted the application, they will send you an I-797. This will tell you more about the immigration benefit. If any benefit has been given to you, then you need to carefully read the notice sent to you.

Can I Use Form I-797 in Place of a Visa?

No, Form I-797 is a totally different document and it cannot be used in place of a Visa. Even USCIS clearly specifies this. If you happen to leave the U.S. and want to enter the country, you will need an actual visa.

However, if you are an immigrant and need an extension of status, you can apply for it to the USCIS. If the application is approved, you will receive Form I-797A, which is proof that USCIS has received your application and accepted it. This means that you can remain in the U.S. under the new status or the current one, depending on whether you’ve applied for a change or an extension of status. Your stay is determined by the date written in the form.

But if you leave the U.S. and want to return, you cannot use form I-797A for that. You need to apply for a visa.

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Conclusion

It’s important to understand what Form I-797 is if you want to know why you’ve received it. But no matter the reason, two things are clear: you need to read the document carefully, and you need to keep a copy of it. That being said, if you require any additional information, you can look it out on Stilt.

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