USCIS to Expand In-Person Interview Requirements for Certain Permanent Residency Applicants

Interviews will soon be required for Employment-based Adjustment of Status and Derivative Asylee and Refugee Status.

Effective Oct. 1, USCIS will begin to phase-in interviews for the following:

• Adjustment of status applications based on employment (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status).

• Refugee/asylee relative petitions (Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition) for beneficiaries who are in the United States and are petitioning to join a principal asylee/refugee applicant.

Previously, applicants in these categories did not require an in-person interview with USCIS officers in order for their application for permanent residency to be adjudicated. Beyond these categories, USCIS is planning an incremental expansion of interviews to other benefit types.

Changes due to Trump’s extreme vetting plan

These changes are taking place due to information provided in the President’s Executive Order (“EO”) related to the travel ban that was initiated in January 2017 but revised later in March 2017.  In the revised EO it was stated that a uniform baseline was required for vetting and screening and there would be no waivers such as those related to in-person interviews.  The USCIS has now become the focal point for implementation of the EO.

Effects of eliminating waivers

An immediate effect will be longer waiting time for receiving the results of a green card application.   As more interviews will be taking place, there will likely be more delays in arriving at decisions.  The USCIS has revealed that it is not only the permanent residency applicants and the families of refugees and asylees that will be affected, but other categories which have not yet been revealed will be affected too.

What is the role of in-person interviews?

The USCIS has stated that their aim is to prevent fraudulent claims and identify any possible security threats.  It seems these earmarked categories aren’t normally identified as security threats or aren’t normally engaged in fraudulent activities.  Also most of the individuals involved are already living in the U.S. and are subject to fingerprint screening and security checks already.  In addition, the new I-485, Supplement J, which has been released is designed to ensure there is a job offer that is bona fide.  These measures make the interview both unnecessary and unwieldy given the present checks and balances present.

What is not affected by this announcement?

It will not affect employment authorization documents (“EADs”) and I-140 petitions.  So the change should not have any impact on work authorization in the U.S.  However if this interview requirement is extended into other categories there may be a greater impact overall.

Effect on derivative refugees and asylees

The obvious effect is delays in getting the green card.

Preparing for the in-person interview is not always easy

The applicant will be required to have a full understanding of why he or she is eligible for the benefit and what the benefit actually is.  The employment based applicant will be asked to submit a description of his or her employer, the position which must include job duties, where the job is located and how much is going to be paid as well as any required credentials to back-up the application.  A refugee’s family member or asylee will be required to explain their relationship with their family member and explain how he or she was granted the refugee or asylee status in the first place.

In order to ensure success in an in-person interview, the applicant should really practice the interview session with someone who is familiar with the contents and questioning methods used in such situations.  There may even be language barriers to consider, especially in the refugee and asylee category.

EXPERTS IN IMMIGRATION LAW