Guide to Form I-817 in the U.S.

Posted by Frank Gogol

Have you heard of the Family Unity Program? If you are a family member of a U.S. citizen or U.S. lawful permanent resident, you may be eligible for Family Unity Benefits and can use Form I-817 to apply. 

Here are instructions on how to go about completing the Form I-817 and applying for your Family Unity Benefits. 

What is Form I-817?

Similar to Form I-131 and the Form I-485, Form I-817 is also a family based immigration form. The Form I-817, Application for Family Unity Benefits is the form you use to apply for Family Unity Benefits under the Family Unity Program. 

What are Family Unity Benefits?

The Family Unity Program aims to prevent foreigners in the U.S. and their families from being separated for too long. 

This program provides two primary benefits to family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents who want to obtain U.S citizenship themselves:

  1. You will be allowed to stay in the U.S. for two years.
  2. You will receive an Employment Authorization Document that will be valid for these two years.  

Who Needs Form I-817?

You will need the Form I-817 to request initial benefits under the Family Unity Program. You will also use the Form I-817 if you want to request an extension of these benefits.

How to Complete Form I-817

You can choose to print your Form I-817 and fill it out by hand or type it. In either case, remember to use black ink and make sure all your entries are legible.

Don’t leave any of the items blank. If any questions don’t apply to you, simply write “N/A.” 

Here is how you can approach each part of the Form I-817.

Part 1 – Information About You

Part 1 is where you (as the person requesting Family Unity Benefits) provide all your personal information.

Personal information you will have to provide includes:

  • Alien registration number
  • Full names
  • Any other names used
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security Number
  • Sex
  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) online account number
  • Country of birth
  • Country you are a citizen of.

Remember, your Alien Registration Number, USCIS Online Account Number, and your Social Security Number aren’t the same. You have to include the correct number in the right space. 

You also have to make sure the mailing address you provide is correct. This address is the address the USCIS will send mail and notifications to. If your mailing address changes, you must notify the USCIS. You don’t want to miss any important documentation! 

Part 2 – Biographical Information

Here you have to provide your biographical information. The questions are pretty straightforward. You will see Hispanic/Latino is only an option for ethnicity and not a race because the USCIS does not define Hispanic/Latino as a race. 

If you are from Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South or Central America, or any other Spanish culture or origin, you must choose one of the race options you most closely identify with.

You must also provide your:

  • Eye color
  • Hair color
  • Height, and
  • Weight. 

Part 3 – Basis for Application

Here you have to say why you are applying for Family Unity Benefits and what benefits you are applying for exactly. You only have to select the appropriate checkbox that applies to your circumstances. 

Part 4 – Information About Your Relationship 

In Part 4, you have to provide information about the person through whom you are claiming eligibility for the benefits. 

Only complete item numbers 3 to 20 if you are applying based on a marital relationship or if you were previously married. If you are applying for Family Unity Benefits based on a child/parent relationship, you can complete item numbers 21.a. – 24.e.

Part 5 – Other Information

Here you provide additional information about yourself that may be relevant. This will include history about where you have stayed and for how long.

Part 6

In Part 6, you sign and date the form and provide your declaration. By signing the form, you certify and declare the information you provided is true and accurate. You must sign and date Part 6 of the form yourself.

Part 7

It’s quite common to use an interpreter if you aren’t comfortable to complete a legal form in English. If you used an interpreter, your interpreter must fill out Part 7 and provide their contact information.

By signing Part 7, your interpreter is certifying:

  • They are fluent in English, and the language used to interpret to you
  • They have read every question and instruction on the form, and your answers to each question to you, and
  • You understood each and every instruction, question, and answer to each question.

Part 8

If a lawyer or agency helped you complete your Form I-817, their information must be provided in Part 8. If no one assisted you in preparing the form, you would write N/A. 

Advice from a friend or things like typing assistance doesn’t count as using a preparer for the purposes of Part 8. You don’t have to provide their details here.

Part 9

You must place your signature in the open box in Part 9. The signature you provide here will be duplicated and put on your Employment Authorization Document.

Part 10

Part 10 gives you some additional space if you need it to provide more information for some of the answers. If you use Part 10, make sure it is clear what question and section the additional information relates to.

Evidence and Supporting Documentation

You will have to provide evidence to substantiate your application for Family Unity Benefits. The provision under which you are applying for Family Unit Benefits will determine the specific supporting documents and evidence you must provide. 

Suppose you are requesting initial Family Unity Benefits under Section 301 of the Immigration Act of 1990 (IMMACT 90). In that case, you must prove the required relationship exists, and you are eligible to file the application. You will also have to prove you meet the continuous residence requirement. You will do this by submitting at least 3 documents to show your residence in the U.S. since May 5, 1988, or December 1, 1988.

If you are requesting initial Family Unity Benefits under Section 1504 of Public Law 106-554, LIFE Act Amendments, you also have to show the required relationship exists, and you qualify for the benefits. Under this section, you have to prove entry into the United States before December 1, 1988, and residence on that date.

If you are requesting an extension of Family Unity Benefits, you must show the required relationship existed on May 5, 1988, or December 1, 1988. You must also show you are eligible to file an application for an extension of Family Unity Benefits.

You can find a full list of documents you can submit to prove all of the above here.

Form I-817 Cost

The filing fee for Form I-817 is $600. If you are age 14 or older, you will also have to pay an $85 biometric service fee. 

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Conclusion

If you are eligible, don’t hesitate to apply for Family Unity Benefits. Use the instructions we provided to complete your Form I-817 and be reunited with your family once again!

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