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Understanding Immigration Status: Checking Methods & Privacy Considerations

Foreigners in the United States are generally classified as immigrants and non-immigrants. Both are subject to laws and rules that determine their legal status. In the case of non-immigrants, such as tourists, students, skilled workers, and artists, their legal status is determined by their admissibility and visa expiration dates. In the case of immigrants, their legal status can fall under the following:

  • Permanent resident
  • Conditional resident
  • Undocumented

The records managed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are classified by legal status plus the current stage in the process of obtaining benefits. Immigrants enter the USCIS system when their visas are approved or when they arrive at ports of entry and are deemed to be admissible. When an applicant gets his or her first Form I-797 from a field office, embassy, regional processing center, immigration law firm, or immigration lawyer in San Diego, the applicant will know he or she is in the USCIS system. Moreover, the receipt number on the Notice of Action will let the person check his or her status.

USCIS Case Tracker

With this online tool, immigrants who have 13-character receipt numbers (three letters and 10 numbers) can check their status even if they don’t have myUSCIS accounts. Many immigration law firms use this tool to check how their clients’ cases are progressing. The information displayed is sourced from real-time USCIS databases, and it includes the current legal status as well as what has been done with the case.

Not every USCIS petition or application will generate a Form I-797 Notice of Action, so the USCIS case tracker is mostly useful to check on: 

  • Form I-485, Adjustment of Status
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
  • Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker

Adding more information and functionality to the case tracker has been previously considered by USCIS, but there are privacy concerns in this regard.

Other Ways to Check USCIS Status

Foreigners who live close to the USCIS field offices where they submitted their paperwork can check on their status in person if they book appointments, which can be done by calling 1-800-375-5283. This same number can be dialed to get status and case information over the phone. Doing this requires providing personal information as well as the receipt number. Hearing-impaired callers can use the USCIS TTY service at 1-800-767-1833.

There was a time when USCIS handled all requests for case status by mail. This method is still available, but it’s even slower than it used to be and currently only works when the paperwork was submitted or dropped off at a field office. Petitions sent directly to regional processing centers must be checked online or by phone. The letter sent to the field office must include personal information such as full name, date of birth, and when the packet was submitted.

Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), anyone can request immigration records even if they’re not their own, but this requires written authorization from the immigrants unless they’re deceased. FOIA records requests must be initiated online at the First Public section of the USCIS website, and it requires setting up a myUSCIS account. Depending on the workload and the location of the records, FOIA requests may take weeks or months to complete.

If you have questions about any aspect of the immigration process, contact the immigration lawyers San Diego residents trust. The attorneys at KS Visa Law have vast experience with every aspect of immigration law, and they’re the attorneys to call on when you need the most up-to-date information about immigration regulations. Call KS Visa Law today at 858-874-0711 to schedule an appointment.

June 2024