USCIS today confirmed reports from Politco.com and NBC News that it would be expanding interviews to employment-based permanent resident (aka “green card”) applicants and others who file their applications in the US. Currently, employment-based applicants are generally waived of an interview, which normally does take place for family-based applicants. This will likely slow down processing times.
Announced today, USCIS will begin to increasingly expand such interviews in order to comply with Executive Order 13780, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” and is part of the agency’s comprehensive strategy to further improve the detection and prevention of fraud and to further enhance the integrity of the immigration system.
Specifically, the applicants that will be impacted are currently the following:
• ALL Adjustment of status applications based on employment (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status)
• ALL 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
This will begin on October 1, 2017. USCIS says this change will help to discern fraud and increase scrutiny in hopes of preventing foreign terrorism. USCIS local offices will likely bear the brunt of the huge increase in interviews but there was no mention of increased staff to meet such demand – just “enhancements in training and technology.” USCIS Denver Office processing times for family-based adjustment of status applicants have now creeped up to nearly 1 year and citizenship cases to about 8 months. These are much longer than they were even a year ago.Moreover, the public announcement by USCIS hinted that in-person interviews could be expanded even further.
The American Immigration Lawyer’s Association stated today that this impact is to date unknown – “it remains unclear how this will be implemented operationally, including resource allocation, timing, and process.” Some commentators such as former USCIS legal counsel, Steve Legomsky, are also not sure whether all this effort is worth it. “It probably does add some marginal value,” he said, “but whether that value is enough to offset that additional work is hard to say.” USCIS used to conduct such in-person interviews over a decade ago but then it went to waivers when many in the agency thought it a huge waste of time.
In-person interviews take a significant portion of USCIS officer time and logistics and no doubt, this mandate will slow the processing times of ALL applicants interviewing with USCIS Denver and make the employment-based process more expensive and time-consuming to prepare for. But to what degree is really an unknown.
If you have concerns about your employment based green application and you live in Boulder or Denver, Colorado, be sure to contact immigration lawyer Catherine Brown at the Law Office of Catherine Brown LLC in Lafayette, CO.