Address reporting required of Aliens in the U.S.

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View the AR-11 Alien Change of Address form (PDF).

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the formal name for the immigration laws, requires any alien over the age of 14 who remains in the U.S. for more than 30 days to report his or her address to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) within ten (10) days of the change of address. The following will help you understand your responsibilities in this regard and how to meet them.

Q1. What exactly is the rule about address reporting?

A1. 1NA Section 265(a) reads, "Each alien required to be registered under this title who is within the United States shall notify the Attorney General in writing of each change of address and new address within ten days from the date of such change and furnish with such notice such additional information as the Attorney General may require by regulation."

If you are an alien physically present within the U.S. then you are required to be registered (e.g. to have an I-94 card or similar document confirming status), and you are required to make address reports as specified in the law.

Q2. Who is an alien and why does INS use that term?

A2. "The term `alien' means any person not a citizen or national of the United States." That definition is very direct and clear. You acquire U.S. citizenship by being born in the U.S or to U.S. parents or by naturalizing. You become a national of the U.S. by being born in one of the outlying possessions of the United States or to parents who are nationals of the U.S. If you have F, J, H, O, TN, or LPR ("green card") status or any other immigration document allowing you to be in the U.S., then you are considered to be an "alien" under the legal definition.

Q3. I know that I have filled in my address on lots of forms, but why haven't I heard about this direct reporting requirement before?

A3. This law has been "on the books" for a very long time, but over the years INS has placed a low priority on enforcing the law and collecting and recording address changes. Indeed, INS has generally not had the manpower or resources to record address changes even if they were reported. In practice, INS has been interested primarily in addresses directly connected with a benefit or approval notice that INS would have to mail back to the alien. That philosophy has changed since the attacks of 9/11/01.

Q4. If the INS has not been maintaining its address files and has not been enforcing the law, then why should I start reporting my address now?

A4. The law is the law, and even though INS may not have enforced it in the past, Congress and law enforcement are now very interested in aliens in the U.S. It is a good idea to know your responsibilities and comply with the law.

Q5. How do I report my address? Where do I send it?

A5. You report your address on form AR-11. You can find this form on the INS website. It loads in Adobe as a fillable form, so you may fill it out online, print it, and mail it to the INS address indicated on the form. You must sign the form. When you complete your address report, please print an extra copy and send it to the International Office at Mail Location 0627. That will help us keep your address current here as well. Visit the INS website >>

Q6. I do not like the idea of reporting my address to INS. What happens if I just refuse to do it?

A6. INA Section 266(b) states "Any alien or any parent or legal guardian in the United States of any alien who fails to give written notice to the Attorney General, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall, upon conviction thereof, be fined not to exceed $200 or be imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both. Irrespective of whether an alien is convicted and punished as herein provided, any alien who fails to give written notice to the Attorney General, as required, shall be taken into custody and removed in the manner provided by chapter 4 of this title, unless such alien establishes to the satisfaction of the Attorney General that such failure was reasonably excusable or was not willful." Willful failure to register is punishable by imprisonment not to exceed 6 months and a fine of not more than $1,000 or both.

In short, if you make a choice or decision not to report, a willful act, then INS has the authority to charge you with a crime, fine you, imprison you, and then deport you. In practice INS has not used this violation alone to deport someone, but INS can add this to a list of violations such as overstay or unauthorized work, when they are building a case for deportation.

Q7. What if I did not know about this rule and have not reported my address, or if I forget and report late? What will I NS do?

A7. The INS, through the office of the Attorney General, has the authority to forgive such failures provided the failure to report "was reasonably excusable or was not willful." That means that you need to report properly and promptly, but that INS will generally not take an action against you just because you missed a deadline or didn't know you needed to report, provided that you act in good faith and send the report once you know you have to report or realize you have missed the deadline.

Q8. 1 may be moving around a lot. My box number is the most accurate address to reach me. Why does INS want to know every time I move?

A8. Members of Congress and INS and other government agencies have indicated to schools that they want to know where aliens live, including students and scholars, so that they can find them if necessary.

Q9. I am just a student or scholar. I study, I do my research, or I teach. I am not doing anything wrong. Why would INS or any other law enforcement agent want to find me?

A9. There could be many reasons. The most common, of course have to do with events, such as the recent terrorist acts, that cause the government to launch investigations.

Q10. OK, now I am beginning to feel a little angry and uncomfortable about this. What has Wheaton College done or is Wheaton College doing about this address reporting and the general treatment of international students and scholars?

A10. Wheaton College, along with many other colleges and universities, is doing all that it can to protect students' and scholars' rights in these very tense times with a very active Congress working to change the immigration laws.

Q11. But don't I have Constitutional rights? What about my civil liberties?

A 11. Everyone in the U.S. and under its jurisdiction has certain rights, but aliens do not have all of the same rights as citizens.

Q12. I still have questions about this. Who can answer my questions?

A12. Contact International Student Services by sending a message to International.Students@wheaton.edu or call the office at 630-752-5191.

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