5 min read

December 06, 2020

Form I-797 Notice of Action Explained

Breaking down the different types of I-797 Notice of Action forms

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One of the most challenging aspects of managing the visa request process is understanding the many different ways that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS,  will communicate the status of your pending immigration request. Whether you are applying for a long-term student visa, have applied for a tourist visa, or are seeking permanent residency, it’s likely that you will become familiar with the I-797 Notice of Action form which is used to communicate what is happening with the status of your application.

Put simply, the I-797 form communicates 7 different stages or points of process related to the application that you’ve submitted to USCIS. It is important to keep these forms safe and easily accessible each time you receive one.

I-797 Notice of Action Best Practices

It’s always a good idea to set up some basic personal administrative systems that will keep you organized when dealing with USCIS. Listed below are 4 best practices that we encourage you to consider while waiting for your immigration request to be adjudicated.

  • Always review your I-797 form and make note of the type of I-797 form that you’ve received. Reviewing your form will insure that you understand where your application stands with USCIS.
  • Store your I-797 and any other forms that you receive from the USCIS in a secured location. There’s nothing worse than losing a must have form. To avoid this situation, keep all of the forms that you receive from USCIS in one place.
  • Make a note of the date that you received your form. Oftentimes this small action is forgotten. It’s important to check the date on every single form that you receive from USCIS.
  • Pay attention to the 13 digit receipt number that you will find on your I-797 forms. This is the number that you will use to access the online portal that communicates the status of your immigration case. This portal is called the USCIS Case Status Tracker and it’s where you will go to check on the status of your case.

Lost paperwork, missing receipt numbers and unsecured documentation could potentially put your case at risk.

What Are the 7 Different I-797 Notice of Action Forms?

Please be aware that there are 7 different types of I-797 forms that fulfill very different purposes. We’ve created a quick and easy breakdown of what applicants can expect each form to communicate to them when they receive one.  

Form I-797 Notice of Action - Issued when an application or petition is approved

I-797 is a general confirmation stating that the application you’ve submitted has been approved for processing. Applicants will normally receive this notice up to three weeks after the initial application submission.

Form I-797A Notice of Action - Issued to an applicant as a replacement Form I-94

I-797a is directly related to the status of your I-94 form. The I-94 is received upon arrival in the US and is literally referred to as a Arrival/Departure card. Individuals who request a change to their status in the US would receive this particular form once that request is being reviewed.

Form I-797B Notice of Action - Issued for approval of an alien worker petition

I-797 b is given when you’ve submitted an Alien Worker petition. Normally, this notification is sent to applicants who are residing outside of the United States and are looking to work in the US.

Form I-797C Notice of Action - Issued to communicate receipt

I-797 c communicates a surprising number of different actions. The I-797c will verify payments sent by an applicant and received by the US government. What is nice about this form is that it will also show the amount paid by the applicant. In addition to being a receipt, the I-797 form will also confirm when an appointment has been rescheduled, when a immigration case has been reopened and communicate receipt of transfer of files, finger biometric etc.

Form I-797D Notice of Action - Accompanies benefit cards

I-797d is given as a an accompaniment to benefit cards; whether you have requested a permanent resident card (Green Card) or a Work Permit you will receive an I-797d form upon receipt of either card.

Form I-797E Notice of Action - Issued to request evidence

I-797e for when the USCIS may need additional information in order to properly process your application. Basically, the I-797e is considered a request for additional evidence.

Form I-797F Notice of Action - Issued overseas to allow applicants to travel

I-797f for when there are moments when documents are lost or damaged. In the event that you’re overseas and that has happened to your Green Card, an I-797 f is issued to allow for return travel to the United States.

Living in the United States as a student, permanent resident, or worker can often feel overwhelming. What is wonderful about the various types of  I-797 forms is the assurance that there is a system to communicate every single aspect of the visa request journey from start to finish.

Applying for a student visa, permanent residency, or work permit can be an intimidating process. Hopefully resources like this one will help to simplify and demystify the process.

Finally, make sure to use the resources available to you. If you’re looking to study in the United States, your school will almost always have an individual or department tasked with helping international students understand what they are obligated to communicate to the US government and vice versa during their stay in the US. Similarly, if you’re looking to work in the US most businesses will have someone that you will work with on different aspects of what you need to do to work legally while in the United States.

If those types of resources aren’t available to you, then you may want to seek legal representation that will help you navigate your journey through United States immigration.


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Michelle Jackson
Michelle Jackson
With 10+ years of experience working in the immigration and personal finance space, Michelle has written for leading publications like Business Insider and Vice.

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