You’ve just spent weeks preparing an immigration application that you need to send to one of the USCIS support centers. Although you might be somewhat familiar with the U.S postal service, you should generally be careful in how and when you decide to mail-in application materials. Although some applications are possible to be submitted online—a full list, here: https://www.uscis.gov/file-online/forms-available-to-file-online, others require you to use a courier service. In this blog, we will discuss some ways to safeguard your personal information and important documents (such as birth certificates) and make sure you are getting the materials to the USCIS in a timely and efficient manner.
Delays in Mailing
1 in 5 pieces of mail across the U.S. was delivered late to households and businesses in the first three months of 2021, according to postal agency data. In general, due to Covid-19 and other structural issues within the postal service, performance has slumped in the past fiscal year. This is important to know if you are planning on mailing in, for example, a replacement green card application, or if you are wondering how long it will take for your employer to be contacted in regards to an I-129 petition they mailed to the USCIS.
How to Protect Yourself
In order to protect yourself from the delays of the postal service, or from possibly having application materials lost, you need to take some precautionary steps. These include the following:
- If your prospective employer is planning on mailing in an I-129, or I-140 petition for a job, ask them kindly to use a different courier service such as FedEx or UPS. Ask your employer to not simply drop the petition in the mailbox and to bring it to a service center for expedited shipping if possible. This could shave many days or even weeks off of your application processing time.
- Make photo-copies of important documents to avoid permanent losses. For example, many USCIS forms require applicants to attach supporting evidence in their application packages. This absolutely means items like birth certificates and important tax information.
- Ask for a tracking number. One of the benefits of going directly to the post office is that when you pay for shipping of a package, a USPS employee will print out your receipt and they should indicate or circle a tracking number for you to follow your package. Make sure you have this so you know when the USCIS receives your package.
Give Yourself Ample Time
Even if you aren’t sending in an application to the USCIS, you might be asked to supply additional evidence for the immigration benefit you are seeking. This could happen if you are a domestically based NIW applicant, or if the USCIS sends you an RFE in regards to an H1B application or a green card application. Generally these requests have time limits, meaning that you will need to respond to the requests within a certain number of days (usually 30 to 60). In order to respond in a timely manner, don’t wait until the last second. You need to submit your additional evidence at least a week in advance if you are using standard shipping. Keep in mind business days do not include Sunday, but generally do include Saturday for USPS.
There have been cases where NIW applications are denied because the applicant did not respond to an RFE in time, due to a misconception of knowing how long it would take to reply via postal service. You should absolutely pay an extra $10 and bring your materials to a postal office, and ask for priority shipping to make sure it gets to an appropriate service center in time if you are cutting it close.
Reporting a Change of Address
In addition, if you are seeking information, such as an approval of status, PR Card, or other important documents issued by mail from the USCIS, you need to make sure that you submit a change of address application as soon as possible, so the USCIS does not delay your status/benefit request. This process is now done electronically so you can basically update your address instantly.
Fill out information on the “Change of Address” page, available here: https://egov.uscis.gov/coa/addressChange.do. Toward the bottom, you will see information where you can enter your old and new address.