It's perfectly normal for U.S. immigrants with a green card to move around to different addresses in the United States. Perhaps, for instance, they get a new job assignment or need more living space. Unfortunately, it's also easy to forget that you are supposed to tell U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) every time you move to a new address, for as long as you hold a green card. Let's look at how to handle such an oversight and the potential for deportation if you don't.
First, the law itself. Almost all non-U.S. citizens who are in the U.S. are required to give USCIS their new address within ten days of moving. (See 8 U.S.C. § 1305.) Filing a change of address form with the U.S. post office is not sufficient. You must alert USCIS directly of your new address.
Only a few people do not have to give USCIS their address after moving, including:
Most types of applicants can either submit a change of address online or call USCIS's contact center, 800-375-5283, to change their address.
Another possibility is to complete and print out Form AR-11 and then mail it to the address listed on the USCIS website. (In fact, this is sometimes the only option, when the online system gets glitchy and sends error messages.) If changing your address through the mail after having submitted applications to USCIS that are still being processed, it is a good idea to also send a letter to the office processing your application to separately advise it of the new address.
It is imperative that, in filing the change of address notification, you list the receipt number of every immigration application that is still pending (awaiting U.S. government action). For example, a U.S. citizen child might petition for her father and file an adjustment of status application, and he might wish to work while the application is pending. This application requires submitting three forms to USCIS:
You'll need to list each form and its receipt number on the Change of Address form, whether changing the details online, by mail, or via Form AR-11.
If filing an AR-11 by mail, be sure to use a carrier that offers tracking, such as the U.S. Postal Service with certified mail and a return receipt requested. That way, you will have proof that you submitted it to USCIS, in case it gets lost in the system (as is not uncommon).
If you are a victim of domestic violence, trafficking or other crimes, you cannot file your change of address online. Instead, you should print out and mail form AR-11 to the USCIS Service Center listed on its How to Change Your Address web page.
What if you are a lawful permanent resident (LPR) who has never given USCIS a new address, or has already waited, perhaps a year after moving? According to the law, willfully (intentionally) failing to advise USCIS of your new address is a misdemeanor. It can be punished by a fine of up to $200 and up to 30 days in jail.
The law also says that an LPR can actually be removed from the U.S. (deported) for failing to give USCIS a new address, unless the LPR can prove:
However, in practice, it is rare for U.S. immigration authorities to actually prosecute or deport an LPR who failed to update an address. Immigration authorities have limited resources and cannot go after every LPR who fails to update an address. Nevertheless, strict enforcement is always possible in the future.
Updating your address with USCIS is a good idea, even if you're late. You will look more responsible and honest that way. And if you haven't submitted your address change when you've moved in the past, do it now and do it every time you move in the future.
Or, if you meet all of the eligibility requirements, consider applying for U.S. citizenship. Once you are a U.S. citizen, you'll never have to give USCIS your latest address again. For more information, see Who Can Apply for U.S. Citizenship.