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USCIS: Are Your Signatures Valid?

Starting March 18, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will require individuals who are submitting an application, petition, request, or other documents to provide a "valid" signature on forms filed with the agency. This new policy memorandum redefines the definition of a valid signature and reverses a 2016 interim memorandum that allowed signatures pursuant to a Power of Attorney (POA). USCIS found that the inconsistent acceptance of POA signatures by its officers created an evidentiary hurdle when prosecuting immigration fraud.

The policy defines a valid signature as any handwritten mark or sign. It does not need to be legible, in cursive, or in English, and may be abbreviated as long as it is consistent with how the individual normally signs his or her name. Additionally, a signature is valid even if the original signature is subsequently photocopied, scanned, or faxed.

Under the new policy, POA signatures will not be accepted after March 18, except in very limited circumstances. Individuals and employers seeking immigration benefits should be aware of what constitutes a valid signature under this new policy, since the compliance deadline begins next week.

Any individual who is filing a request or other document with USCIS must personally sign the request or document. Attorneys, accredited representatives, agents, preparers, and interpreters are excluded from the definition of individual. No other person may sign a request or document on behalf of an applicant or petitioner, unless the individual is under the age of 14 or mentally incompetent.

Corporations that wish to file immigrant or non-immigrant petitions for foreign employees—or who wish to extend the authorized stay of a current non-immigrant employee—also are required to follow this new policy. In order for corporations to sign a request or submit a document to USCIS, forms must be signed by an authorized person, as delineated in the final policy memorandum. These authorized people include:

  • Executive officers

  • Managing members or partners

  • Legal representatives

  • Authorized human resources representatives

  • Executors or administrators of an estate

  • Trustees or conservators

  • Employees authorized to legally bind the corporations

The USCIS policy memo also indicates that these authorized signers must be employed by the petitioner or applicant. Finally, under the new policy, USCIS may reject a form based on a non-compliant signature, instead of offering the submitting party an opportunity to correct the error. Individuals and authorized signers must observe these new signature requirements in order to avoid a rejected application, which wastes precious time and money.

Copyright © by Ballard Spahr LLPNational Law Review, Volume VIII, Number 73

About this Author

Brain Pedrow, Ballard Spahr law firm, employment, labor, and employee benefit dispute lawyer

Brian D. Pedrow is the Practice Leader of Ballard Spahr's Labor and Employment Group. He represents employers and management in the full scope of matters related to employment, labor, and employee benefit disputes. Mr. Pedrow's practice includes all facets of employment-related litigation, such as discrimination, harassment, retaliation, breach of contract, and employment-based torts. He also has a significant practice representing benefit plans, fiduciaries, and plan sponsors in Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) litigation arising from benefits eligibility...

Dennis Burke, Ballard Spahr, litigation lawyer
Of Counsel

Dennis K. Burke focuses his practice on white collar crime, internal investigations, commercial litigation, and government relations. Mr. Burke served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, and has more than 20 years of significant experience in federal and state government.

As the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, Mr. Burke oversaw all federal prosecutions in the state and led a range of investigations, including high-profile cases involving white collar crimes, drug trafficking, immigration issues, and fraud. He served for four years at the...

Jessica Federico, attorney, Ballard Spahr Law Firm, Minneapolis, MN

Jessica Federico is dedicated to providing advice to employers who are navigating the challenging and ever-changing landscape of employment law. She counsels employers on defense of discrimination claims, wage and hour disputes, employee termination, internal I-9 audits, and filing petitions for employment-based immigrant and non-immigrant visas.

Prior to law school Jessica worked for several legal services providers in the Twin Cities, assisting immigrants in removal of defense, family based immigration, and humanitarian relief.


Maya Salah, Associate

Maya Salah is a member of Ballard Spahr's Labor and Employment Group as well as its White Collar Defense/Internal Investigations practice. She advises national and international clients on employment and business immigration matters, focusing her practice on employment-based immigration, I-9 audits, and corporate immigration compliance.

Her primary areas of focus are in: 

  • Litigation. 
  • Labor and employment. 
  • White collar defense. 
  • Internal investigations. 

Some of Maya's professional accomplishments include being recognized as...

Anu Thomas, Ballard Spahr Law Firm, Philadelphia, Labor and Employment Litigation Attorney

Anu Susan Thomas is an associate in the Litigation Department and a member of the firm’s Labor and Employment Group. While in law school, Ms. Thomas was a summer associate at Ballard Spahr, and a Philadelphia Diversity Law Group summer associate in the Office of University Counsel at Temple University, where she conducted legal research and drafted documents that addressed employee, faculty, and general university issues. She also served as an education and community outreach field officer and project manager at the Profugo Organization in South India, where she...