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Is Form I-797 Notice of Action a Visa? Can I use Form I-797 to Enter the United States? What is Form I-797 Used for?

By October 11, 2016April 6th, 2021Immigration
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Form I-797 is a form used by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to communicate with customers or convey an immigration benefit. This is not a form that an applicant can fill out but is correspondence from USCIS notifying an applicant regarding an action taken on their immigration application.

There are several ways that USCIS uses Form I-797:

I-797, Notice of Action Issued when application or petition is approved.
I-797A, Notice of Action Issued to an applicant as a replacement Form I-94. Typically issued to applicants that applied for a change or extension of status.
I-797B, Notice of Action Issued for approval of an alien worker petition (e.g. H1B) who is abroad. If you are in the U.S. and applied for an extension of status, it means that you qualify for the job but may have committed an immigration violation so you have to go to a consulate abroad to get a visa stamp.
I-797C, Notice of Action Issued to communicate receipt of an application and payments, rejection of applications, transfer of files, fingerprint biometric, interview and re-scheduled appointments, and re-open cases. Also issued to employers or legal representatives notifying them of action taken on the case. This is the most commonly issued USCIS form.
I-797D, Notice of Action Accompanies benefit cards (e.g. EAD, Permanent Resident Card/Green Card)
I-797E, Notice of Action Issued to Request Evidence (“RFE”)
I-797F, Transportation Letter Issued overseas to allow applicants to travel to the U.S. Typically issued to lawful permanent residents (“LPR” or green card holders) who are outside the U.S. and whose green card is lost, stolen, mutilated or not yet received and “Processed for I-551” stamp affixed in the LPR’s passport has expired.

What Does a Form I-797C look like?

In April of 2012, USCIS changed the format of Form I-797. It is now printed on plain bond paper and includes a header stating, “THIS NOTICE DOES NOT GRANT ANY IMMIGRATION STATUS OR BENEFIT.”


Does the Form I-797 Grant any Specific Immigration Benefits?

Form I-797C is only a receipt proving an applicant has submitted a benefit request; USCIS has not determined whether that applicant is eligible for an immigration benefit. Once USCIS has made the determination that the applicant is eligible for the benefit they are applying for, it will issue an I-797 notice stating the nature of the immigration benefit.  You should read the I-797 notice carefully as it will specify the immigration benefit (if any) that has been issued to you.

I received Form I-797, Notice of Action indicating my application has been approved. Can I use it in place of a visa?

No. USCIS explicitly states on the approval notice that “THIS FORM IS NOT A VISA NOR IT MAY BE USED IN PLACE OF A VISA.” As such, the document does not allow you to enter the country if you leave the U.S. and you need a visa for that.  For example, if you are in the U.S. and applied for a change or extension of status, and your application was approved, you will receive Form I-797A. This is evidence that USCIS has approved your application and you are authorized to stay in the U.S. in your new status (if you applied for a change of status) or your current status (if you applied for an extension of status) until the date indicated on the form. An updated Form I-94 is attached to Form I-797A indicating your authorized period of stay.


If you are granted a change or extension of status by USCIS and you depart the U.S., you cannot use form I-797A in place of a visa to enter the U.S. You must apply for a visa at a consulate abroad and submit a new application with all the supporting documentation required for the visa.

We have successfully assisted many applicants who are in the United States and decide to extend or change their status (for example from B2 tourist to E-2 or from H1B to E-2). If you have questions about the change of status process, contact us for a consultation. We are here to help.


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