Requirement to Carry Immigration Documents

U.S. immigration law includes provisions intended to help authorities keep track of foreign nationals in the United States. By law, all non-U.S. citizens aged 18 or older are required to carry at all times, a “certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card” (e.g., I-94 for nonimmigrants or the I-551 card for permanent residents). Foreign nationals are also obligated to notify the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of any change of their home address. Historically, these laws have not been widely enforced. Yet, given the increased focus on enforcement by the Trump Administration, it would be prudent for all foreign nationals to ensure they are in compliance.

Requirement to Carry Form I-94 or Other DHS Registration Document

Section 264(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires every alien over the age of 18 to “carry with him and have in his personal possession” the “certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card.” In practice, this would be the I-94 card for most nonimmigrants in the U.S., or, in the case of lawful permanent residents, the I-551 card (i.e. the “green card”). If the nonimmigrant’s latest I-94 was issued electronically (i.e., ‘paperless’ I-94 issued at a port of entry), a printout of the online form should be on one’s possession at all times.

Requirement to Report Changes of Address

Most foreign nationals, including green card holders, are also required to notify the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of a change of address within ten days of relocating. The process is simple, free, and can even be done online by filing form AR-11. Instructions for completing this address change requirement are available in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, Notifying USCIS of Change in Address (23.Oct.2014).


As indicated above, it has been relatively rare for foreign nationals to be prosecuted under these legal provisions. But, since these laws are still on the books, and immigration officials conceivably could start enforcing these requirements at any given time. Hence, it is safest to follow the law. Fortunately, complying with these requirements should be relatively simple for those who have the status and have the required paperwork.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.