In 2002, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS, now called USCIS) shocked immigrants and their advocates by starting to enforce little-known provisions of the immigration law that make it a crime for immigrants not to submit immediate notifications whenever they change their address. The potential punishments include fines, imprisonment, or deportation. While the immigration authorities largely ignored these legal provisions in the past, their post-September 11 security focus changed this. Unfortunately, a number of innocents may be caught in the trap.
As a green-card holder, you must take steps to protect yourself. Within ten days of your move, send USCIS a notice on Form AR-11, using a special address set up to handle the mountain of forms. Note that you can’t just send one form per family—every member of your household needs to have a separate form submitted for him or her.
The form and the address to which it must be sent are on the USCIS website (in various languages) at http://uscis. gov/ graphics/formsfee/forms/ar-11.htm. Form AR-11 itself is fairly self-explanatory. The question about your "last address" refers only to your last address in the United States, not your last address in any other country. The address you supply should be where you actually live, not a P. O. box or work address. There is no fee for filing Form AR-11.
In addition, if you have any applications on file that are waiting for a USCIS decision—for example, if you’ve applied for citizenship—you need to separately file a change of address at whichever USCIS office is handling your application. Check with that office for its procedures—a letter may be enough.
What if more than ten days have already passed and you’ve only just discovered your responsibility to file Form AR-11? Most attorneys advise that you fill out the form now, to show USCIS you made an attempt to comply and to assure that it has your current address. USCIS can forgive a failure to notify if that failure wasn’t willful (intentional).
As with everything you send to USCIS, there’s a chance it will get lost.
Be sure to make a photocopy of your Form AR-11 and any notifications you send to other USCIS offices. Then mail everything by certified mail with a return receipt. The return receipt is particularly important because USCIS won’t send you any separate acknowledgment that it has received your Form AR-11. Put your copies and the return receipt in a safe place in case you ever need to prove to USCIS that you complied with the law.
with a fairly complete set of instructions, and you can read more on the USCIS website at www. uscis. gov/graphics /howdoi/renew. htm.
Alternately, if you are ready and eligible to apply for u. s. citizenship, you can submit the citizenship application instead of renewing the green card. It will probably take you over a year to get your citizenship, but usCIs doesn’t mind if you carry around an expired green card in this circumstance. If you need to change jobs or travel, however, you will probably want to renew the green card, to prove to the rest of the world that you are still a permanent resident.