United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced it will begin to re-implement in-person interviews for employment-based green card (permanent resident) applications beginning October 1, 2017. This new policy will undoubtedly delay overall processing times of employment-based adjustment (I-485) applications.
This directive also introduces an interview requirement for family members of refugees or asylees applying for derivative refugee or asylee status.
The interview requirement is not a new one. Although USCIS does routinely require interviews for family-based green card applicants as well as naturalization applicants, over the past ten years this interview requirement for employment-based green card applications has been waived in almost all cases.
USCIS has not yet announced how it will implement this directive, but it has confirmed it will engage in a multiphase roll-out approach. USCIS indicated that the categories of visas requiring interviews will expand in the future, calling it "an incremental expansion."
USCIS says the goal of the in-person interview is for USCIS officers to identify security risks and fraud. Applicants will need to convince reviewing officers the information provided in the paper application was accurate, usually details about the employer and the position held by the applicant. This change in policy fulfills the White House's promise for more forms of "extreme vetting." In almost all cases these employees have already been working in the U.S. and have been through several background and security checks before entering the U.S.
Many fear this change will lead to longer wait times for employment-based green card applications since there are almost 170,000 additional people who will require interviews to get green cards than previously. The officers will also have a ramp-up period as they learn the requirements for the employment-based green card applications. Our firm will prepare applicants for these interviews so it will not have a negative impact on approval. But additional time and preparation will be required.