Updated: December 2022
The Form I-797 is a document the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) uses to communicate with applicants.
The most common reason we see form I-797s be sent to our customers is when USCIS is issuing them receipt notices for their application. USCIS will send applicants Form I-797 approximately 4-6 weeks after the applicant submits an application to them. The purpose of this form is to notify the applicant that USCIS has received the application and has started processing it.
Please Note: Make sure to keep a copy of all I-797 forms for your personal records. They can commonly be used as evidence for other USCIS forms you may fill out.
How to Read an I-797 Form?
This is what an I-797 Form looks like:
Here are some general areas to look for when reading your receipt notice:
There are seven different I-797 forms and each serve a different purpose as outlined in this article:
- Form I-797, Notice of Action: Receipt Notice
- Form I-797A, Notice of Action: Replacement for an I-94 Form
- Form I-797B, Notice of Action: Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker
- Form I-797C, Notice of Action: Important Information
- Form I-797D: Includes a Benefit Card
- Form I-797E, Notice of Action: Request for Evidence
- I-797F, Transportation Letter: Travel Permit
1. Form I-797, Notice of Action: Receipt Notice
This I-797 form is simply a receipt informing you that the application or petition has been received or approved. Note that this is just the receipt, not the official document. Therefore this document cannot be used to work or travel.
However, the form is still very useful. It gives you information about your application, including your receipt number. Your receipt number is a 13-digit-long code you can use to track your case online. Simply use this USCIS Case Status Checker.
If you lose your receipt number, you can schedule an InfoPass appointment where you’ll meet with a USCIS officer who can provide you with information about your case. USCIS will require that you bring valid identification to the appointment. You may also request this information through USCIS’s live chat option, or call USCIS directly at 1(800) 375-5283.
For many cases, USCIS also sends out a separate notice that will have instructions for setting up your Online USCIS Account.
2. Form I-797A, Notice of Action: Replacement for an I-94 Form
Form I-797A Notice of action is sent as a replacement for the Form I-94 for applicants already in the U.S. This typically means that a change of status application has been approved and the immigrant is legally able to stay in the U.S. up until their new I-94 expiration date. The Form I-94 can be found at the bottom of Form I-797A and functions as the official document. The body of the document will provide additional guidelines. This form includes the date of admission, the class of admission, and the date to which they are admitted to stay.
Here is what an I-797A, with the replacement I-94 Form looks like. It includes an I-94 number, which is usually the same number as your original I-94, new VALID FROM and ADMIT UNTIL dates, and the new, or extended Class of Entry description.
To find the new I-94 portion, you can check in the following spots of the form:
Please note: If you have not filed for a change or extension of status within the U.S., you will need to obtain your I-94 directly through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website. To increase efficiency, reduce operating costs, and streamline the admissions process, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has automated the I-94 Form. The paper document is only given in limited circumstances. If you need a copy of your Form I-94, you may request it here.
Please note: If you originally received a paper I-94 before the CBP automated them online, and it has since been lost, you may need to submit a Form I-102 with USCIS in order to receive a replacement. For more information on this, please see here.
3. Form I-797B, Notice of Action: Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker
Form I-797B is issued when the applicant submits Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. The body of the document will include instructions. The bottom section will include important information for admission to the U.S. depending on the applicant’s circumstance, like all I-797 forms, this form will include details about your application.
Please note: The I-797B Form is required for any Employment-Based Adjustment of Status Applications.
4. Form I-797C, Notice of Action: Important Information
This is perhaps the most common I-797 form. It is very important that you read this document carefully as it usually tells you the next step in the application process. In addition to the regular information, the Form I-797C will inform the applicant of a rejection, transfer, re-opening, or scheduled/re-scheduled appointment.
Form I-797C is also the form that will come separately, at the same time or a few weeks after, the initial receipt notices that will include instructions for setting up your Online USCIS Account. For more information on this, please go to USCIS’s website here.
Typical appointments include a biometrics appointment or an interview with a USCIS officer. If you receive a Form I-797C, pay close attention to what it says. Ignoring or misreading the instructions can delay your case.
5. Form I-797D, Notice of Action: Includes a Benefit Card
The Form I-797D will generally include a benefit card. This could be a green card or another official document such as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or Advance Parole. Like the regular I-797 form, you will not need to do anything with this form. However, it is still important to keep a copy for your personal records.
6. Form I-797E, Notice of Action: Request for Evidence
Many USCIS forms require additional evidence. This is called a Request for Evidence (RFE). If the USCIS does not receive all the required evidence in an application, they will send the form I-797E. In this form, they will explain the issues with the evidence already provided or simply state that no evidence was included.
If you receive this form, make sure to read it carefully! The Form I-797E will often include a time limit and specific instructions. If you never respond to a request for evidence, your application will most likely be denied.
When responding to a Request for Evidence: Only submit photocopies of official documents unless original documents are specifically requested because the USCIS will not return evidence to you and will most likely destroy it after the case is closed.
Click here for more information about responding to Requests for Evidence.
7. Form I-797F, Transportation Letter: Travel Permit
This is the only I-797 form that is not a “Notice of Action.” This document allows overseas applicants to travel. If you receive Form I-797F, simply follow the guidelines provided in the document as they are specific to your case type.
What to do if you lose an I-797 Form and want, or need, a replacement?
If your I-797 has been lost or stolen, you will need to reach out directly to USCIS to help obtain your receipt number. To do so, you can schedule an appointment with them online here, or call them directly at 1-800-375-5283.