Form I-797 Notice of Action: Types, Functions, Processing Time, and More

Are you unsure about what that mysterious Form I-797 Notice of Action means? You’re not alone. USCIS uses this form to communicate with applicants about their immigration cases or benefits. This guide will detail everything you need to know about Form I-797, so buckle up because we have many information to cover.

We’ll explain what I-797 is, the different I797 notice types you might encounter, and what the content on the form means for your immigration status. Whether you’ve received a receipt notice, an approval, or an update, this guide will help you understand the message from USCIS.

What Is I-797?

Form I-797, a Notice of Action letter, is how U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services communicates with you about your immigration case. There are seven different versions of Form I-797, each with a specific purpose. You’ll find a letter after “I-797” to indicate the type of notice (e.g., I-797A). We will discuss the various I 797 notice of action types in an upcoming section of this guide. Let’s focus on what is form I-797, what it isn’t, and what it does.

  • It’s a notification, not a form to fill out: While it’s called a “form,” you don’t complete anything on it. This notice informs you about USCIS’s decision on your application. 
  • It tells you about your application status. It could be a receipt notice confirming USCIS has received your application, an approval notice for your petition, or an update on your case (like a request for evidence).
  • It doesn’t grant immigration benefits. Receiving a Form I-797 doesn’t automatically mean you’re approved for a visa or green card. It’s just a communication step in the process.

Why Is I 797 Notice of Action Important for Your Immigration Journey?

Now that you know what a Notice of Action is, you need to learn its importance. Simply put, the I-797 Form is a vital communication channel between you and USCIS. But let’s get into more details, shall we?

Form I-797 Help You Track Your USCIS Case Status

I797 acts as an official record of USCIS’s actions on your case. Basically, USCIS announces that your case was received, and a receipt notice was sent. Form I 797 can also include other updates, like the notification of their decision, whether it’s an approval (for an I-130 petition, etc.), a petition denial (for an I-765 application, etc.), a request for more evidence (for a K-1 fiancé(e) visa, etc.), or any other information.

On the I-797 Form, You Find Your Receipt Number

This unique I551 number allows you to track the progress of your case directly with USCIS. This number is readily available and allows you to inquire about your case status or follow up on any questions.

Many I-797 Forms Provide Crucial Dates

Some versions of the I-797 Notice of Action include your priority date. This specific date holds weight when determining your eligibility for certain immigration benefits. The USCIS priority date is a beacon for you when you check the Visa Bulletin and its wait times. In turn, they can influence the overall timeline for your application. 

Essentially, the I-797 Form empowers you to stay informed, track your case progress, and reference essential dates throughout your immigration process.

IMPORTANT! There’s a crucial step you shouldn’t miss if you change addresses during your immigration process: updating your mailing address with USCIS as soon as possible. Remember, Form I-797 Notice of Action often contains important instructions or next steps. Missing these updates due to an outdated address can cause delays or complications. To avoid this, be proactive! USCIS offers two ways to keep your address current: you can submit Form AR-11, Alien’s Change of Address Card, or update your information directly through your USCIS online account (if you have one). Keeping your address current ensures you stay informed and on top of every step in your immigration process.

Understanding the Different Types of Form I-797 Notices

USCIS uses different versions of Form I-797, Notice of Action, to communicate with applicants and petitioners throughout the immigration process. It’s important to remember that these forms are for informational purposes only and cannot be filled out by the recipient.

The following table summarizes the different I797 forms, their typical uses, and some additional details to help you understand their significance.

Form Number









Notice of Action

Notice of Action

Notice of Action

Notice of Action

Notice of Action

Notice of Action

Transportation Letter

Additional Information

It is the most common version and is used to inform you about the receipt or approval of your application or petition. The receipt number on this form allows you to track your case status online through USCIS.

This specific form serves as a replacement for Form I-94: Arrival-Departure Record. It's typically issued to individuals who have lost or damaged their original I-94 upon entry to the United States.

This form signifies the approval of a non-citizen worker petition filed on your behalf by an employer or sponsor. This petition allows you to be considered for employment authorization in the United States.

This versatile form is used for various case status updates. It can notify you of application receipt, rejection, file transfer to a different USCIS office, biometrics appointment scheduling or rescheduling (fingerprints and photographs), requests for additional evidence, and even case re-openings if new information is submitted.

This form accompanies the physical arrival of your USCIS-issued benefit card, such as a green card or employment authorization document. The form will usually specify the card type and validity period.

This form signals that USCIS requires additional information or documentation to proceed with your application. It will detail the documents needed and provide a deadline for your response (typically within 60 days).

Issued to green card holders residing outside the U.S. whose green card is lost, stolen, or damaged. It allows them to return to the U.S. and obtain a replacement green card. This temporary travel document does not guarantee re-entry into the United States.

As you can see, the I797 approval notice and its various types serve a handful of purposes and functions. To better understand what I-797 forms do, when, and how, let’s check out the following sections of our guide!

Understanding Form I797: Notice of Receipt or Approval

Form I-797, the most basic version of the Notice of Action series, plays a critical role in your immigration journey. You’ll receive this form without any additional letter after “I-797” – essentially your core “approval notice.”

What Does Form I-797 Do?

There are two main scenarios where you might encounter this form:

  • Application receipt: After submitting an application or petition to USCIS, you will typically receive Form I-797 within a few weeks (or days for applications with premium processing). This confirms that USCIS has received your application and initiated the processing stage. The form will include a unique receipt number, allowing you to track your case’s progress online through USCIS.
  • Application approval: If USCIS approves your application or petition, you will receive Form I-797. In this case, it functions as an official “approval notice.” This document signifies a positive outcome and may be critical for your immigration goals.

Why Is Form I797 Important?

Hold onto your I-797 Form, whether it’s a receipt or approval notice. Here’s why:

  • Proof of application/petition: This form is official documentation that you filed a specific application or petition with USCIS.
  • Eligibility for benefits: In some cases, Form I-797 (particularly the approval notice) may be required to prove eligibility for certain immigration benefits.
  • Legal documentation: The form may be used as evidence in legal proceedings related to your immigration status.

What to Do After Receiving Form I-797

Many USCIS applicants wonder what is the next step after i-797 approval. Here is what we tell all our clients: now that you’ve received your Form I-797, the following steps will depend on whether it’s a receipt or approval notice. So, here’s how to proceed in each case.

Form I797 as Receipt Notice

First and foremost, securely store your Form I-797 in a safe place for future reference. This document confirms that USCIS has received your application or petition and has begun processing it.

Form I797 as Approval Notice

If your Form I-797 signifies approval, take a moment to celebrate this positive development in your immigration journey. Once again, safeguard the original document in a secure location for your records. Now, carefully review the entire approval notice to ensure you understand the details of the decision. The form may also include further instructions outlining any next steps you need to take. Be sure to follow these instructions diligently to avoid any delays or complications.

IMPORTANT! The usual I-797 processing time is 2-3 weeks. If you submitted a petition with premium processing services, you can expect to receive your I-797 in a few days.

Understanding Form I-797A: Replacement Arrival/Departure Record

Not all non-citizens or permanent residents receive a physical Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, upon entering the United States. However, this record is crucial for documenting your lawful entry and permitted stay duration. If you fall into a situation where your I-94 is unavailable, Form I-797A, Notice of Action, comes into play.

What Is the I797A Form?

Form I-797A serves as a replacement for your Form I-94. USCIS issues this form in various scenarios, with the most common reason being an address change after your initial entry into the U.S. This update ensures your contact information remains current with USCIS.

What Does Form I-797A Do?

Receiving Form I-797A signifies two critical things:

  • Approval of your address change: USCIS has acknowledged and approved your updated mailing address. This is essential for receiving future communication from USCIS regarding your immigration case.
  • Evidence of lawful presence: Form I-94 (or the replacement I797A) proves that you are legally in the U.S. The bottom portion of Form I-797A includes a copy of your I-94 with the crucial “admit until” date. This date indicates the authorized duration of your stay in the U.S.

In What Other Situations Might You Receive Form I-797A?

While address changes are the most common reason, you may also receive the I-797A Form if you:

  • Apply for and receive a change of status visa approval from within the U.S. This extends your legal stay beyond the original “admit until” date on your I-94.
  • Have a lost or damaged original I-94.

IMPORTANT! Form I-797A acts as a vital replacement for your Form I-94. Keep it safe and readily available whenever you need to demonstrate your lawful presence in the United States, such as when applying for a driver’s license or during future interactions with USCIS.

Understanding Form I-797B: Approval Notice for Employment-Based Immigration

If you’re pursuing an employment-based green card in the United States, you’ll likely encounter Form I-797B, Notice of Action. This form plays a crucial role throughout your immigration path toward permanent residence.

What is Form I-797B?

Form I-797B signifies a positive development in your quest for an employment-based green card. It’s an approval notice issued by USCIS after your future U.S. employer filed Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. This petition is sponsored by a U.S. company wanting to hire you and demonstrates your eligibility to work in the United States.

What Does Form I-797B Do?

By receiving Form I-797B, you’ve cleared a significant hurdle. Here’s what the form tells you:

  • Approval of your I-140 petition: This is the core message. USCIS has reviewed the petition and determined that you qualify for an employment-based immigrant visa category, such as EB-2.
  • Eligibility for employment-based green card: Approving your I-140 petition paves the way for you to apply for a green card based on employment.

IMPORTANT! Form I-797B differs from Form I-797A (replacement for I-94) crucially: unlike I-797A, Form I-797B does not include an arrival/departure record. If you currently reside in the United States with a valid visa status, the absence of an I-94 in Form I-797B likely doesn’t affect you immediately. If you’re applying for a green card from your home country, you must attend a visa interview in your home country. In this case, you’ll likely need to acquire a visa stamp in your passport to enter the U.S. and proceed with the green card application process.

What to Do After Receiving Form I-797B

After receiving Form I-797B, carefully review the details of your I-140 petition approval and any further instructions outlined by USCIS. Understanding the significance of this form allows you to navigate the employment-based green card process more confidently.

Depending on your current location (already in the U.S. or applying from abroad), you may need to initiate additional steps such as scheduling a visa interview or filing an adjustment of status application. It’s best to work with immigration lawyers or service providers for personalized guidance on these next steps.

Understanding Form I-797C: The Multi-Purpose Notice of Action

Unlike the single-purpose I797 forms we’ve discussed previously, Form I-797C Notice of Action is a communication hub from USCIS. This form informs you about various updates on your application or petition throughout the processing timeline.

The appearance of Form I-797C may differ slightly depending on the date it was issued. After April 2nd, 2012, these notices are printed on plain paper and include a clear statement at the top: “THIS NOTICE DOES NOT GRANT ANY IMMIGRATION STATUS OR BENEFIT.”

While not a guarantee of any specific benefit, USCIS acknowledges that some state or local agencies may accept I-797C as partial evidence when considering certain benefits you might be applying for. Regardless of the format, it’s important to hold onto all your I-797C notices for your records.

What is Form I-797C?

This versatile form acts as a messenger, conveying a range of case status updates. Here are some of the key scenarios where you might encounter Form I797C:

  • Receipt notice: You may initially receive Form I-797C to confirm that USCIS has received your application or petition, such as Form N-400 for naturalization or Form N-600 for the citizenship certificate. It confirms that your case has entered the processing queue but doesn’t guarantee approval. The I 797C will also include a receipt number that allows you to track the status of your case online.
  • Rejection notice: If your application or petition is not accepted for processing due to missing information, incorrect details, or improper payment, USCIS will send you a rejection notice via Form I-797C. This notice will outline the reason for rejection and may offer guidance on resubmitting your application.
  • Transfer notice: If your case file is transferred to a different USCIS office for further processing, you’ll likely be informed via Form I797 C. It is a common occurrence when optimizing processing times.
  • Biometric and interview scheduling/rescheduling: The I797C form is often used to schedule or reschedule fingerprint biometric appointments and immigration interviews, which are mandatory steps in many immigration application processes.
  • Request for evidence (RFE): USCIS may send you an I-797C requesting additional information or documentation to proceed with your application.
  • Case reopening: If you submit new information that necessitates reopening your previously closed case, USCIS will typically notify you through Form I-797C.

What is the Next Step After Receiving I-797C?

After receiving an I-797C form, the most important step is to read and understand the content carefully. The specific instructions outlined in the notice will depend on the type of notice you received. Carefully reviewing the details in Form I-797C is vital because the information within the notice will dictate your next steps. Here’s what to expect:

  • Positive developments: A 797C receipt notice means that USCIS has received your application and assigned it a tracking number. It allows you to monitor its progress online. On the other hand, a case reopening notice indicates USCIS is re-evaluating your application based on the new information you provided.
  • Required actions: If your application is transferred to a different USCIS office, the I797C form notice will provide the new contact information. An RFE notice requires you to gather and submit additional documents within a specific timeframe. Biometric and interview scheduling notices will provide instructions on attending these mandatory appointments.
  • Potential challenges: A rejection I-797C notice details why your application wasn’t accepted, such as missing information or incorrect payment. 

By familiarizing yourself with the different purposes of Form I-797C, you can stay informed and take necessary actions promptly. It ensures a “cleaner” and faster immigration process. Don’t forget to discuss the content of your I-797C with your immigration lawyer if you have any questions or require clarification.

Understanding Form I-797D: Confirmation of Your Immigration Benefits

Unlike the action-oriented Form I-797C, Form I-797D serves a more celebratory purpose. It’s the official notification that your green card or work permit application has been approved, and the long-awaited benefit card is finally on its way! While the card grants you the immigration benefit, Form I-797D plays a supporting role.

What is Form I-797D?

Unlike other forms you might encounter during the application process, Form I-797D isn’t a request for additional information or a status update. It’s a simple yet significant notification that your application has been approved. Consider it a congratulatory letter from USCIS confirming your eligibility for the requested benefit.

What Does Form I-797D Do?

This form typically arrives alongside your physical green card or work permit. While it doesn’t require any specific action from you, it serves a few essential purposes:

  • Confirmation of approval: I-797D is official documentation that USCIS has reviewed and approved your application. It’s a tangible reminder of your successful journey and the hard work you invested in the process.
  • Benefit explanation: While not an exhaustive list, the I-797D notice may briefly outline the general rights and privileges associated with the card you’re receiving. This can be a helpful reference as you begin navigating your new immigration status.

What to Do After Receiving Form I-797D

There are no specific actions mandated upon receiving the I-797D letter. However, carefully examining your green card or work permit for errors, such as your name, date of birth, or expiration date, is wise. If you find any discrepancies, contact USCIS immediately for correction.

IMPORTANT! Retain Form I-797D and your green card or work permit for your records. Keep I-797D safe, as it serves as additional documentation of your approved status and the associated benefits.

Understanding Form I-797E: Navigating a Request for Evidence (RFE)

While progressing through the USCIS application process, you might encounter a difficulty called a Request for Evidence. It doesn’t necessarily signal a negative development but rather a need for additional information to support your case. Form I-797E serves as the official communication for an RFE.

What is Form I-797E?

Imagine receiving a letter from USCIS titled Notice of Action (Form I-797E). This isn’t a rejection but an RFE. It signifies that the immigration officer handling your application or petition requires further documentation to make a final decision. The form will clearly outline the specific evidence USCIS needs from you.

What Does the I-797E Form Do?

It acts as a communication bridge between you and USCIS. You’ll receive this form if your application or petition requires further clarification or additional documentation.

The RFE section of Form I-797E usually requests various additional documents to solidify your case. It could include anything from missing marriage certificates or birth records for dependents to proof of employment or further financial documentation to support your ability to live in the United States. USCIS asks you to plug any gaps in the information you initially provided to ensure a clear and comprehensive picture of your eligibility.

What to Do After Receiving Form I-797E

Timely action is crucial when dealing with an RFE. The I797E notice will specify a deadline for submitting the requested evidence. Missing this deadline can significantly delay your application processing or, in extreme cases, lead to a denial. So, here is what you need to do:

  • Review the notice: Thoroughly read the I-797E Form to understand the documents USCIS requests. This ensures you gather and submit the most relevant and accurate information.
  • Gather and submit the evidence: Collect the requested documents within the designated timeframe. Double-check for completeness and accuracy before submitting them to USCIS.
  • Consider consulting a lawyer: An immigration law firm can provide valuable guidance throughout the RFE response process. They can ensure your response is comprehensive, address all of USCIS’s concerns, and potentially avoid delays.

IMPORTANT! By understanding the purpose of the I-797E notice and taking prompt action, you can effectively manage an RFE and keep your application on track for approval.

Understanding Form I-797F: Your Temporary Green Card Replacement for Travel

Imagine you’re a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) traveling abroad, and unfortunately, your green card gets lost, stolen, or damaged. It can be stressful, but fear not! Form I-797F, a transportation letter, comes to the rescue. However, don’t mistake the I-797F for a replacement green card. Upon your return, you’ll still need to apply for a new green card through the standard channels.

What is Form I-797F?

Issued by USCIS upon approval of your Form I-131A application, Form I-797F (“Transportation Letter”) is a temporary replacement for your green card specifically for travel purposes.

IMPORTANT! Only lawful permanent residents whose green card has been lost, stolen, or mutilated while abroad can apply for Form I-131A, which, upon approval, leads to receiving the I-797F notice.

What Does Form I-797F Do?

This form allows you to board a plane and return to the United States while processing your official green card replacement. Think of it as a bridge between your lost or damaged green card and the issuance of a new one.

Remember that while I797F facilitates your travel, the final decision on entry rests with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry. Have all supporting documents, such as proof of your legal permanent resident status.

What to Do After Receiving Form I-797F

You can plan your travel, of course. Once you receive the I-797F Transportation Letter, you can use it to get plane tickets and travel from and back to the United States.

IMPORTANT! Even if you can use the I-797F Form to return to the U.S. from your travels, you must initiate the process for obtaining a new green card replacement. It typically involves filing the I-90 Form to replace your permanent resident green card.

The I-797 Notice of Action: Frequently Asked Questions

The I-797 Form keeps you informed throughout your various USCIS applications and petition processes. This form can come in various versions (like I-797C, I-797E, etc.) depending on the action USCIS takes on your application. We’ve compiled a list of questions from our clients to address some of the common queries regarding the I-797 notice. If your specific question isn’t addressed here, don’t hesitate to keep reading or contact us directly!

Where does USCIS mail all the I-797 notices?

USCIS mails I-797 Forms to the addresses you provided on your USCIS forms. For example, if you listed both your employer’s and your home addresses, USCIS might send separate notices to each location. For this reason, it is vital to keep USCIS updated on your current address.

Unfortunately, there’s no online option to retrieve a copy of your I797 Form. Safekeeping is critical. However, you can request a duplicate by filing the I-824 Form: Application for Action on an Approved Application. This form requires mailing it in; there’s no online filing option.

Processing times can vary, but for a standard Form I-797 Notice of Action (like receipt or approval notices), you can expect to receive it within two to three weeks after filing your USCIS petition. If you opted for premium processing for your petition, the notice might arrive within a few days.

Yes, when entering the U.S., you’ll need to present two documents to the immigration officer at the port of entry to ensure you’re admitted for the correct period:

  1. Your original visa stamp (issued previously).
  2. Your new I-797 approval notice.

No, Form I-797 itself is not a green card. Instead, Form I-797D is a notification that your green card or work permit application has been approved and the card is on its way.

The validity period depends on the type of I-797 notice. Here are some details:

  • Revised I-797 receipt notice: This notice and your Permanent Resident Card receipt can temporarily prove your legal permanent resident status for twelve months since your green card’s expiration date.
  • Green card with extension sticker: If your green card has a valid extension sticker, it remains valid until the new expiration date listed on the sticker.

USCIS issues Form I-797 Notice of Action to inform you of the approval of your nonimmigrant petition or application. This form reflects the specific visa category (such as an H-1B visa for work, an L-1A visa, or an F-1 academic visa for students) you’ve been approved for and the duration of your authorized nonimmigrant stay in the U.S.

There are two ways to check your case status:

  • Online: You can use the USCIS case status online tool. This tool requires your 13-digit receipt number from your application or petition.
  • Phone: If you’re calling from within the U.S., contact the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 or TTY at 1-800-767-1833.

No, you no longer need the physical Form I-797 for your interview at the embassy or consulate in your home country. However, the interviewer will require your I-129 petition receipt number.

Get Professional Legal Assistance with Your I-797 Notice of Action Today!

USCIS notices are complex, and understanding the nuances of each form is key to an easy and timely immigration process. We hope this I797 guide has equipped you with basic knowledge about the Notice of Action and its variations. However, immigration law is intricate, and unforeseen circumstances can arise.

If you have further questions or require guidance specific to your situation, contact the trusted ImmigrationDirect attorneys at our firm. We’ll provide tailored legal advice to ensure your I-797 and application process work seamlessly!

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