FREE DOWNLOAD: Click Here To Download The Employers Guide to the H-1B Process.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Click Here To Download The Employers Guide to the H-1B Process.
The Importance of the I-797 Form in H-1B Applications

If you are sponsoring a candidate for an H-1B visa, you need to understand the I-797 form. This form is sent to visa applicants by USCIS to notify the recipient about important updates to their applications. However, multiple types of I-797 forms can be sent depending on the circumstances. ‘

No matter where you are in the sponsorship process, these forms are fundamental to securing and maintaining H-1B visas. Below, we explain how I-797 forms work, the different types, and how they impact employment visa applicants.

What Is the I-797 Form?

The USCIS I-797 is formally known as the Notice of Action letter. In most cases, receiving one in the mail means that USCIS has approved the candidate’s application. They are typically received within three weeks of the application being sent. In addition to notifying candidates that USCIS has received their documents and approved their petitions, it includes instructions for the remainder of the process. 

More importantly, the base I-797 is an official “letter of approval” for certain visas. Once this letter is received, your candidate can present it to a U.S. consulate to apply for their actual visa. Without an official, physical I-797 notification of approval in hand, it is not possible to apply for an H-1B visa. 

Variations of I-797 Forms

There are other variations of the form that serve as notices of action in different circumstances. These alternative forms include letters after their numerical designation to distinguish them from the standard letter. These alternatives include:

  • I-797A: If someone loses their I-94 arrival and departure record, USCIS may send them this letter to act as a replacement. 
  • I-797B: These letters act as approvals for alien worker petitions but do not include I-94 records. Recipients must attend a visa stamping meeting in their home country to enter or remain in the U.S. after receiving one. 
  • I-797C: This letter is used to notify recipients of receipt, rejection, transfers, appointments, and re-opening cases in various visa cases. When sent regarding permanent residency petitions, it will include a receipt number and an I-797 priority date to indicate when the recipient is eligible to file for their card.
  • I-797D: This form accompanies benefit cards, including green cards and employment authorization cards. The paper should be kept in a safe place in case the card itself is lost.
  • I-797E: More often known as a Request For Evidence (RFE) letter, this form notifies the recipient that their application was incomplete in some way and instructs them on what additional information they need to supply to be considered. 
  • I-797F: This form is rarely issued because it is most frequently used to permit lawful permanent residents who have lost their green cards to re-enter the U.S.

Why I-797 Forms Matter in H-1B Applications

It is possible to receive several variations of the I-797 form during the H-1B petition process. You will likely receive an I-797C form when the petition is submitted. If your application is incomplete, you may also receive an I-797E. Finally, if your petition is approved, you’ll receive a standard I-797. 

No matter what type of I-797 form you receive, you must treat it carefully and read it thoroughly. They each contain unique information and instructions on proceeding with your application. More importantly, if the letter informs you that your candidate has been approved for a visa, the physical letter must be present before they can apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate. As such, the letter should be treated with the same care as a visa, green card, or passport. 

Understanding Your I-797 Form With Expert Legal Help

The many variations of the I-797 form can be difficult to understand without assistance. It is critical to do so anyway because misunderstanding what your specific form means can cause mistakes that could cost a candidate their visa.If you have questions or concerns about how these USCIS Notice of Action letters work, consult an experienced immigration law firm such as Litwin & Smith. Our knowledgeable attorneys can answer your questions and guide you through the rest of the H-1B petition process. Call our firm at 650-551-9766 or contact us online to get started.

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