U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that starting Oct. 1, all foreign nationals who have submitted employment-based adjustment of status applications will now be required to undergo a personal interview at the USCIS office with jurisdiction over their place of residence.

USCIS has had a long-standing policy going back several decades of waiving in-person interviews for most applicants, as the agency recognized that employer-sponsored green card applicants posed few security risks. The reinstatement of the interview requirement will almost certainly result in additional and significant delays in processing applications for permanent residence. This will be particularly true in large immigration offices such as New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and Houston, where staffing of immigration examiners is limited and their time is already taken up with conducting interviews for marriage-based family immigration cases. Unfortunately, the interviews will also require the presence of all family members, often during the school year, and it will require waiting periods of possibly many hours at USCIS offices for cases to be called. We will provide counsel for representation at the interviews and will help prepare the adjustment of status applicants for the questions likely to be asked.

The agency also plans to require interviews for other types of cases in the future. USCIS has not yet specified which case types would be affected, but this may include interviews in connection with change of nonimmigrant status filings — a change which will add an enormous number of cases to the USCIS’s already lengthy interview queues.

We are skeptical that this policy will result in the Trump administration’s stated goals of increasing fraud detection and identifying security threats, given that employment-based applicants for permanent residence will by this stage in the immigration process have undergone a litany of both background checks and face-to-face consular interviews when applying for initial visas. In any event, immigrant visa processing for permanent residence at a U.S. consulate in the applicant’s home country (rather than applying for a green card through the adjustment of status process in the U.S.) may become a more attractive option, as it may prove to be a quicker path to permanent residence than the revamped adjustment of status process.

We will monitor the implementation of this policy change and will advise you further as more details become known.

Trump Administration Planning Cuts to J-1 Visa Programs

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Trump administration is considering major reductions in J-1 cultural exchange programs, including the elimination of the popular J-1 trainee and intern programs. Trainees are foreign nationals who come to the United States for up to 18 months to gain exposure to U.S. culture and to receive training in U.S. business practices in their chosen occupational field. They must have a postsecondary, foreign degree or professional certificate, and at least one year of prior related work experience acquired abroad. Alternatively, trainees must have acquired five years of work experience abroad in their occupational field. Internship programs are designed to allow foreign college and university students or recent graduates to come to the United States to gain exposure to U.S. culture and to receive hands-on experience in U.S. business practices in their chosen occupational field. To qualify, interns must be currently enrolled in a foreign postsecondary school or must have graduated from such an institution no more than 12 months prior to the exchange-visitor program start date. J-1 internship programs cannot exceed 12 months in length.

No official decisions on the elimination of these J-1 programs have yet been announced. In addition, it is not clear whether the Trump administration will seek to eliminate these programs without opportunity for public input or whether it will propose eliminating these programs through a formal regulation followed by a period of public comment. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as they become available.