What address should I use for my immigration case?
As an immigration lawyer, I'm paranoid about making certain that USCIS and the Immigration Court have my clients' correct address. "What is your address?" seems to be a simple question but determining what address to use for your immigration case is a source of much confusion. In my immigration practice, I see clients making the same mistake over and over when it comes to address, especially when it comes to marriage based green cards and I-751 petitions.
To untangle the address issue, let's start with a look at the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under INA §101(a)(33), the term 'residence' means the place of general abode; the place of general abode of a person means his principal, actual dwelling. So when a USCIS officer or your immigration attorney asks you for your address, generally, what they mean is what is your residence. And "residence" means where you actually, really live.
Residence and address do not mean where you intend to live or where you want to live or where you would prefer USCIS think that you live. Your address for immigration purposes doesn't mean where you get your mail or an apartment where your name is on a lease. "Your address" is where you, in fact, live.
2 Examples of Address Mistakes in Immigration Cases
Let me give you two actual examples of mistakes concerning residence / address that I've seen in my immigration practice.
- A man files an I-751 petition to remove the conditions on his permanent residency. His wife lives in Massachusetts. He lives and works outside the state but visits on weekends. His underlying immigration petition depends on proving that his marriage is based on genuine relationship. And if USCIS were to discover that the couple were no longer living together, it would look bad. So he tries to conceal from USCIS the fact that she no longer lives in Massachusetts with his wife.
- An individual files an application for adjustment of status (I-485). He does not live in Massachusetts but would prefer that his immigration case be processed at the USCIS Boston District Office. So he lists his cousin's address on his immigration forms.
Here we see two examples of the same problem. "Your address", i.e., the address you list on your immigration form, should be the place where you live, not where you want USCIS to think that you live.
Consequences of Giving Immigration Authorities an Address where you don't actually live
In marriage-based green card cases and I-751 petitions to remove the conditions on residency and on some naturalization applications, applicants bear the burden of proving that their marriage to a US citizen is based on a relationship that is genuine. Cohabitation is a key factor. Form G-325A and the I-751 petition both require disclosure of your history of addresses. You should expect USCIS or an Immigration Judge to carefully scrutinize your addresses to determine whether you and your spouse have been cohabitating.
Again, USCIS views the address you list on the immigration form as your principal place of residence. So if you list your address as the same as your spouse's, when, in fact, you are living elsewhere, you've just given false information in your immigration case. You should expect USCIS to investigate thoroughly your address using available public information such as financial documents, tax records, social media and internet searches. And for fraud investigations, USCIS makes house visits and speaks with neighbors.
The bottom line is that in any marriage based immigration case, if you list an address on an immigration form where you don't actually live, you are putting your case at risk of denial by giving immigration authorities false information. But having your immigration case denied is not the worst case scenario. According to USCIS internal guidelines on deportation, immigration officers issue Notice to Appear in Immigration Court for cases involving fraud.
Immigration consequences of failing to notify USCIS and Immigration Court of your current address
A second but different problem is failing to update USCIS and Immigration Court with your change of address. Remember that under INA §265 you must inform immigration of your change of address within 10 days. Failure to do so is grounds for deportation (although in my entire career as an immigration lawyer, I've never seen the Department of Homeland Security actually try to deport someone for failing to comply with the address requirement).
If you have an immigration case pending with USCIS, I recommend that you file Form AR-11 online and keep a copy of what you file for your records to confirm that you properly changed your address. If you are in deportation or removal proceedings and have a case before Immigration Court, changing your address is a bit tricky and may require the services of an immigration lawyer. To change your address, you have to fill out Form EOIR-33 in triplicate and on blue paper. File the form with the clerk at the Immigration Court (I hand-deliver all court filings) and then you must serve a copy of the EOIR-33 on the Office of Chief Counsel. Again, I hand-deliver, always.
More questions about Immigration and Addresses?
If you have more questions about how residence and address may impact your immigration case, or any other issue, please call me at 617-722-0005. I'd be happy to meet with you to discuss this
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