On August 28, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will begin to "phase-in" mandatory in-person interviews for certain employment-based applications, including the main application to request a green card - Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. USCIS routinely interviews applicants who filed family-based applications.
Interviewing applicants who are the beneficiary of employment-based petitions represents a drastic departure from the long-established policy of waiving the interview requirement. This includes a mandatory interviews needed for applicants who easily pass their background checks, have no signs of criminal history, prior immigration violations, etc.
The new requirement became effective on October 1, 2017. It is tied to the Executive Order 13780, "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States," and reports to be part of the agency’s comprehensive strategy to further improve the detection and prevention of fraud and further enhance the integrity of the immigration system.
The August announcement regarding the new policy left many unanswered questions. Some questions were answered during USCIS' two recent stakeholder calls. Here are the additional details that have emerged regarding the implementation of the new interview requirement:
- All employment-based Form I-485 applicants who filed after March 6, 2017 will be interviewed.
- The employment-based preference category will not impact the order of interview scheduling (e.g., EB-1 Aliens of Extraordinary Ability will be waiting in the same queue as EB-3 Skilled Workers).
- Dependents (spouses and minor children) will be interviewed at the same time as the primary employment-based beneficiary and will be questioned regarding their relationship with the primary beneficiary.
- Very few waivers will be allowed, and this time the only available mechanism to request a waiver is to schedule an appointment with a local USCIS office.
- Local USCIS offices that will be conducting interviews are not supposed to reevaluate the employer's previously adjudicated Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, but applicants will be expected to answer basic fundamental questions related to the job opportunity.
- There will be processing delays for I-485 applicants (with a potential spillover effect on other immigration applications) because this policy change alone represents a 17 percent increase in USCIS local office workload.